Bringing Maths to the School Playground

Outdoor maths

From EYFS all the way to GCSE, maths is a fixture of the curriculum. However, the way the subject is delivered doesn’t need to be confined to the classroom. There are plenty of opportunities to learn in the playground, both through outdoor lessons and through play. And with the many outdoor curriculum resources now available, bringing maths to the school playground is easier than ever. Here are just some of the ways this can be done.

Learning to count

A child’s maths journey begins by learning to recognize numbers and count. For those at a young age, one of the easiest ways to help them is through play and in the playground, this can be done in a number of ways. For example, there is now a wide range of numeracy-based playground markings that children can play on while familiarising themselves with numbers and using them to count. These include the mathematical number grid, which has numbers 1 – 100 in rows of 10, complete with the add, subtract, divide and multiply symbols, and various hopscotch-style numbered steppers.

Add, subtract, divide and multiply

When it comes to solving basic maths problems, a great outdoor resource is the abacus panel which can be used to help children count, add and subtract. The panel features three rows, for units, tens and hundreds, and has a whiteboard section for calculations, so it can even be used by older children doing more advanced sums.

To add a little fun to outdoor maths lessons, there is also the sum spinner, a mounted board on which children spin wheels to be given random add, subtract, divide and multiply questions.

Telling the time

Telling the time is an essential life skill but one that can be difficult for children to grasp when they have to count minutes and seconds in 60s and hours in 12s and 24s. Then there’s the challenge of having to convert times between traditional analogue clock faces and the numerical times displayed on digital devices.

One outdoor resource that can help with all these matters is a clock board. Each board features a large analogue clock with moveable minute and hour hands, a white background on which to write the hours and a box where the analogue time can be written as a digital number.

Learning shapes

Understanding shapes is essential for the later study of things like geometry and trigonometry and there are a number of ways schools can introduce shapes in the playground. There are shape-focused playground markings, including the Shapes X 5, which features a circle, square, rectangle, triangle and pentagon, and the fun Shapes and Ladders game.

For increased challenge, there are also tangram tables on which children need to organise smaller geometric shapes in the right places to make a perfect square, and soma cubes, which require 3D blocks of different shapes to be arranged into a complete cube. Both these are great for small group work and require quite a lot of problem-solving to achieve the right outcome.

Coordinate fun

Teaching children to understand coordinates can be done in a fun way by playing the traditional battleships game. AT ESP Play, we’ve now brought this to the playground with the introduction of outdoor battleboards. It’s the same game but done on a large gridded and labelled whiteboard where children can mark their own moves and wipe them away when finished.

Once children have got the basics of coordinates, they can then progress to more challenging problems by using the multi-function coordinates/tessellation board. This enables them to do things like plot graphs and positive and negative coordinates; mirror sketch across different axes; and learn about vectors and tessellation.

Playtime practice

One of the advantages of bringing maths to the playground is that children can use the resources during their free time and if they have attractive and tactile resources at hand, they are more inclined to play with them. As a result, they’ll be perfecting their skills while also having fun with their friends. Some of the useful resources they can use include large outdoor dominos, colour-coded giant matchsticks and the brain-teasing colour puzzle table. More traditional maths-related fun can be had with tabletop and magnetic board games, such as ludo, Connect 4 and Snakes and Ladders.

Conclusion

With a little imagination, you can transform maths teaching and reduce your reliance on those boring and repetitive old textbooks by taking the subject outdoors. The playground is full of opportunities for problem-solving and with the right resources, you can make learning maths a more active and enjoyable experience.

For more details, take a look at our range of outdoor maths resources.

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