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Easy ways to take maths outside
Juliet Robertson Education consultant, specialising in outdoor learning
As a primary teacher, I want my children to have an excellent education and for each and every child to achieve to the best of their ability.
That’s why I teach many maths concepts outside where I can, ideas include:
• Introduce a concept, such as a right angle.
• Use a previously taught concept in a practical or applied situation. This might be when a class has to find a stick that has fallen on the ground, which has an example of each type of angle in its formation.
• Assess what children know, their body movements, comments or ability to join in an activity tell me just as much as a row of sums in a workbook. When children are standing in a circle we can play “show me” games. Each child can find two straight sticks and rotate one to demonstrate the approximate size of a 60–degree angle. It is evident whether they understand this unit of measurement.
To undertake maths work outside does not rely on expensive outdoor resources or the purchasing of a special kit. The grit, dirt and weather take its toll so use old or worn products. It is likely you have many such items that are sitting quietly on a forgotten shelf. Here’s some examples:
Real money works best. Play games such as “Pitch ‘n’ Toss”. Split a class into groups. Each child in the group needs a coin and takes it in turns to carefully throw the coin at a wall. The child whose coin lands closest to the wall wins all the coins. The total is counted and recorded, and the game is repeated with a new set of coins.
Old sets of plastic counters
or objects These work well for playing games where you need to quickly see what children know. If you are looking for examples of rotational symmetry outside, children can mark these with an object. It saves on chalk. If you want to see how a specific group of children are managing, then each group can use a different colour counter.
A big emphasis in any curriculum is on children’s ability to accurately estimate and measure length. The use of tape measures can help children learn how to measure, round up and down to the nearest millimetre or centimetre and learn how to convert between different units. For example, when sowing seeds, children need to ensure that the seeds are planted at the correct depth and distance apart. Activities such as practising the long jump quickly, improve measuring skills as well as fitness.
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