If you’re looking for exciting ways to teach maths, your school playground is the ideal resource. Outside, pupils have the opportunity to discover numbers, patterns, shapes, sizes, angles, volumes and distances. And, as we’ll show you in this post, there are some fabulous practical activities you can do that will enhance classroom learning and develop skills.
The other advantage of teaching maths outdoors is that it gives children the space and freedom to explore their understanding of key concepts, and this, in turn, inspires and motivates them to make progress. By applying skills in a practical way, you can show children that what they learn in the classroom has relevance in the real world.
So, here are the ways you can use your playground to teach maths outdoors.
Playground markings can be an exceptionally useful resource to help children learn a variety of maths skills through playing games, and some markings are designed with exactly this in mind. By using movement and repetition, children are able to explore numbers, sequences and patterns and remember them better too.
Traditional playground games, like hopscotch, or giant snakes and ladders, for example, can help young pupils familiarise themselves with basic numbers in easy, practical and fun ways. Target games, where children score points by hitting a target with a ball or bean bag can be used to help with addition.
Playground markings are also ideal for developing your own mathematical games to use in lessons. Take a numbered stepper, for example, and add a dice, and it can be a fun way to practice addition and subtraction. Rather than having to work out the numbers in their heads or using fingers, children can learn by counting the steps they take.
Another interesting activity can be done simply with a long rope or washing line. Using large groups of pupils, you can ask them to make a range of different shapes. How many children do you need to make an octagon? How many for a rectangle? Can you make a 3d shape? Is it possible to make a circle?
Water & Sand Experiments
Once you have established the best type of playground surfacing for your needs, the next stage of the process is to look at the type of sports your PE curriculum covers. If possible, you should try and dovetail this to match the kinds of sports your pupils will to want to play during breaktimes. Finding common ground here, will enable you to provide facilities which children will get the most benefit from.
After making your decision, you can then select the necessary playground markings to have installed. There is a wide variety to choose from and they are all suitable for the surfaces mentioned above and can also be installed on your existing hard surfaced playground. Here at ESP Play, we can provide the markings for football, futsal (five-a-side football), netball, rounders, basketball, tennis and cricket. For those particularly short of space, it is possible to create a multi-sports area by overlaying markings for different sports using different colours.
These markings enable PE staff to teach these sports whilst letting children have the fun of playing them during break times.
Take advantage of nature
Whether you have a natural nature area or have a range of outdoor nature equipment installed in your playground, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of it for developing your pupils’ maths skills.
One of the things that nature is excellent for is surveys. How many insects of different types can you discover in a bug house? Which areas of the playground collect the most volume of leaves, acorns or sycamore seeds? These activities can be used for learning counting, measuring, frequency and other skills. For example, if you measure by how much a bird feeder gets emptier each day, you can ask the children to work out how many bird feeders will be needed for the next term.
You can also use nature to study patterns, shapes and sizes. Children can do this by collecting leaves, seeds and flowers. They can look at similarities and differences to make Venn diagrams.
If you include outdoor maths activities over a longer period, you can examine how things change over time. How much does a plant grow each week? How much rain falls each day in a half term? How long does it take for all the leaves to fall off different tree types during autumn? Not only will these require the pupils to use counting and comparing skills, they’ll also need to come up with effective ways to record and calculate their findings.
Maths with thrills
If you have a range of active outdoor play equipment installed in your playground, you can take your maths learning to a completely new level. For example, if you have Trim Trails, you can record the time it takes for pupils to complete the obstacle course. From this, you can do more complicated analysis. Can pupils link the height or age of a person to how fast they complete the course? What are the mean, median and mode times? Can pupils work out the speed from the times?
You can invent similar activities for traversing a climbing wall or coming down a play tower slide. All these activities are great fun to do and involve quite a lot of detailed and even complicated calculation.
Playgrounds offer the ideal environment in which to give pupils the chance to learn maths in practical, active and enjoyable ways. There are many resources you can use, those that are a natural part of your outdoor space, installed playground equipment or even specialised, outdoor maths curriculum resources. If you need assistance in finding the right resources, give us a call on 01282 43 44 45.