There are millions of ideas for fun maths activities, but you can really get the class excited with outdoor maths activities. Outdoor maths offers up so many fun and simple opportunities for learning many maths topics: from number and place value to measurement. It’s also the perfect opportunity for children to enjoy the outdoors and become more mindfully connected to nature.
The DfE agrees, too, “We believe that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances.”
So, grab your coat and brolly and get ready for our collection of fun outdoor maths activities to try out with your KS1 pupils.
Introducing outdoor maths
Taking a class outside can often ensue serious excitement. That’s usually because it’s not a common activity. If you make it common for your pupils, you might find that initial excitement is calmed a little, making way for some fun maths learning. Regularly timetable outdoor maths and layout your own ground rules for outdoor maths lessons from the get-go.
Then, use our list of fun maths activities to use with KS1 or KS2 pupils.
Practising maths outdoors with KS1 or KS2
- Use nature
- Head to the sandpit
- Get active
- Investigate different leaves in the playground
- Draw big or go home
- Use the children as the activity
- Count passing cars
- Hunt for the shapes
- Find the angles
- Number based scavenger hunt
- Non-standard measuring
- Build a nature Venn diagram
- Place value practice with sticks and rocks
Use grass, sticks and flowers to practice measurement and consolidate understanding. Get pupils to record the length and height of plants and flowers. You could also set challenges like finding the longest stick, or how many different types of flowers are there. This is also a great opportunity to ignite the green fingers of your class; discuss flower types and tree names.
Much like the flowers, plants and sticks, the sandpit can be used for measuring activities, but it can also be used to hide fun objects for counting or answers to sums on a worksheet. Get creative and don’t be afraid of a little mess; the best maths lessons are the ones where effective learning takes place in amongst some serious fun.
You could build an obstacle course for your pupils and then practice directional and positional language. Pupils could be put into pairs and one pupil must guide the other through the words they choose.
Why not throw in some time practice, and time who’s the fastest? Or measure and record their heart rates from different activites?
Leaf sweepings is not only helpful to the site management team, it’s also a great outdoor maths activity. Give children containers and get them to collect as many leaves as they can in a set time. You can then question who has the most for counting practice, but you can also integrate some science into the lesson and look at the different properties of the leaves.
You could also look at identifying the leaves and the trees that they have fallen from.
Use outdoor chalk to challenge children to draw a huge clock. You could use the children as the numbers, or even as the hands as they slowly move around the giant clock face. You could also draw huge shapes on the playground and get children to identify them. With outdoor chalk, the opportunities are endless, and you only need a good British rainfall for a clear canvas.
Make maths really fun and use the children themselves to explore different topics. The great thing about taking maths outdoors is that it gives you tonnes more space than you would get in the classroom. Take to the playground and use bodies for making fractions or to make the shapes of operations such as + or -.
One to be used away from the playground, or even a spot of home learning. Step out to the pavement on the side of a road near your school (keeping safe at all times, of course) and set your class a series of counting and sorting challenges based on the cars that pass by.
Have them note down the colour or type of vehicles as they pass, then create a maths quiz based on that data. Questions could include:
- What total do you have if you take the most popular car colour minus the least popular?
- If buses are worth two and cars one, how many cars passed to equal five buses?
- What colour was the 12th car that passed?
Reinforce recognition of shapes by challenging your class to find items in nature that replicate common shapes.
Give them a list of shapes, varying in the number of sides, and ask the class to tick them off as they find them. For more advanced learners, bring in 3D shapes and hand them a more challenging list. For younger ones, have prompts with visual representations of the shapes. Take this away for those with more understanding.
Once you’ve collected all the required shapes, bring them back inside and do a quick sorting exercise by number of sides. It’s a good way to recognise that items may be the same polygon without being exactly the same shape.
The organic way in which things in nature grow and settle makes for plenty of potential when it comes to angles. Hand out some protractors, or print out a template of angle-finders, and ask pupils to find angles in nature or the playground.
Build on their knowledge of angles by introducing obtuse and acute angles. Once they’ve found some out in the environment, pull out the chalk and ask them to create their own. Older and more advanced pupils could draw out an angle before younger pupils say what category it falls under.
Have some real fun by creating a list of items for your very own scavenger hunt. Ask them to bring in a certain number of sticks, rocks or leaves to be sorted later. Add some simple arithmetic in too. Rather than just asking for a certain number, challenge them to answer a simple sum to find out how many sticks or rocks are needed.
Once they’ve all been collected, use them to further develop mental maths proficiency. Examples include:
- Group them in a certain number (like 4s or 5s) for simple multiplication.
- Develop number bonds by working out how many ways you can add sticks and rocks together to make 10 or 20.
- Make a 100 square in chalk in the playground, and fill certain numbers in using the items you’ve collected.
There is a whole world of possibilities for measuring fun in the great outdoors. Start them off easy by asking them to find sticks, rocks, or other items that are of different lengths. Order them in terms of size for a simple introduction to comparing lengths.
As they progress, introduce new ideas that reinforce their knowledge of key measurement concepts. Introduce a ruler and start using proper terminology like centimetres, inches, feet and metres. Ask them to measure some of the items they’ve collected to see how long they are in any given unit measurement. Then provide them with a unit of measurement, say a foot, and send them off to find items in nature that equal that length.
A fun and simple idea that involves a category of things you’ve collected and a couple of hula-hoops. Create a Venn diagram of nature objects and tie it back into the work you’ve done on measurements. Overlap the hula-hoops and ask the class to sort whatever it is you have by size. Sticking to the size example, one side of the Venn diagram could contain short sticks and the other long sticks. In the middle are those that are somewhere in between. If you prefer, you could use leaves and sort by colour, or use rocks and sort by the different shapes instead.
Create a line in chalk along the playground and number it depending on the proficiency of the class. Then ask them to find items in nature that amount to each number on the number line. This is a great way of using manipulatives outside of the classroom to represent numbers up to 10 or 20.
Once that’s been mastered, add in some arithmetic; if you take the leaves on seven and add in the sticks on five, what number should you place the items on? That sort of thing.
This is another one that requires chalk. Draw out a line along the playground and place various items one side of the line. Ask the class to find items that match them and place them on the other side of the line – creating symmetry between the two.
Add more complexity by challenging them to find items that are the same colour, the same size, or the shape.