“I can’t do maths.” It seems to be such a common way of thinking. Usually it comes as a throw away comment but for some, even the thought of maths can be terrifying. It’s known as maths anxiety. Rapid heart beat, sweat, a million and one thoughts running through the head at an unstoppable speed: many of us have suffered the effects of anxiety at some point in our lives, but for those with maths anxiety, it can rear its ugly head daily and be all consuming. Worst of all, studies have found that children as young as six can suffer from maths anxiety.
How to help students with maths anxiety
Taking maths outside is one way of overcoming maths anxiety for a few reasons.
- The outdoors is scientifically proven to help relieve stress and anxiety.
- Doing maths activities outdoors relieves some of the fear of public embarrassment by encouraging smaller group work in a different setting.
- It helps to make maths fun and reinforce more positive emotions around the subject.
There is so much to gain from using the outdoors to teach maths and there’s nothing like the feeling of gaining the enthusiasm of a reluctant mathematician.
Take your maths lessons outdoor
1. Play games with different types of grass, sticks and flowers.
How tall are they? Which is the longest stick you can find? How many different types of flower are there? How many petals does each type have? Can you make any shapes out of sticks?
2. Using a sandpit for maths practice
How deep is the hole? Which hole is the deepest? How tall is the pile of sand from the hole? How many objects can you find hidden in the sandpit? How many more spades full to hit the bottom of the sandpit? How fast can you reach the bottom of the sandpit?
3. Build an obstacle course
Can the children give directional commands? Can they use positional language? Can they race in teams to complete the obstacle course and time each other?
4. Leaf sweeping
How many leaves are in your barrow? How many leaves on your spade? Is it heavy or is it light? How can you share out the leaves with others?
5. Drawing clocks / shapes
Use outdoor chalk to challenge the children with telling the time, can they draw a clock? Can they write the time in number format?
6. Use the pupils themselves
Can the group make shapes with themselves? Can the class count and show fractions using pupils? Can you use smaller groups to make sums with themselves? (including maths symbols using their bodies).
If you’re looking for tips to cope with anxiety yourself, read our blog 5 stress relief tips for teachers. For everything you need to teach maths outside, check out our entire maths range.