Outdoor Maths Activities KS2 – Teaching Maths Outside
I have put together some fun outdoor maths activities for KS2 to support teaching maths outside. Teaching maths outside is a wonderful way to explore different mathematical ideas and practice learning away from the classroom. It also exposes children to the use of maths in real, hands-on situations, and as well as to problem solve. Children need many opportunities to practice their learning in a range of different situations, in order to make connections and to build on their previous experiences. Building stronger connections helps children to develop a more secure understanding and to build confidence (Haylock & Cockburn, 2017).
Outdoor Maths Activities KS2 – Teaching Maths Outside
I have grouped the activities based on different areas of learning. These activities are primarily aimed at children in KS2 children but can be adapted slightly depending on the children’s ages and experiences. You may also want to see my posts, Outdoor Maths Activities KS1 and Outdoor Maths Activities EYFS.
Number & Place Value
- Ones, tens, thousands & decimal places– Children can represent numbers to thousands (and even decimals) using hula hoops and beanbags. They can also use chalk to draw ones, tens, hundreds, thousands places, or sticks to create a number frame for this purpose. Similarly, rocks or other objects can be used to represent values in number frames. What number does this represent? What would you need to do to make 1 more? 10 more? What about 100 more?
- Ones and tenths with sticks– When children are learning about decimals, they can also use number frames to represent values. A bundle of 10 sticks might represent 1 (whole), and 1 stick might represent .1 (tenth). That way, they can see how a whole is broken up into ten parts (1/10) to make .1. *It’s helpful for children to show that .1 is the same as 1/10. How much is shaded? Can you show me in fractions? How would you write this as a decimal?
- Nim– Nim is a mathematical strategy game where two players take turns removing objects from a pile. Each player must take at least one item per turn. The goal is to either take or avoid taking the last object from the pile. Children can play nim with a pile of sticks or rocks. How many did you pick up? Can you figure out a strategy to win?
- Nature skip counting – Children can practice and show visual counting by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, etc. by using natural objects. They may want to use a tens frame for support. E.g., nuts in pairs (2’s), 3 leaf clover (3’s), 4 leaf clover, flower with 5 petals, etc. They can count the blades on the leaves to help them do this. For example, maple and horse chestnut leaves have 5 blades each so these can be used to count in 5’s. Buttercup and clover leaves have 3 blades so children can use them to count in 3’s. It may be helpful to point out that skip counting is the same as repeated addition or multiplication. How many sets of 2 do you have? How much is that altogether? Can you make a number sentence (equation) to represent this?
- Nature Arrays– Children can make arrays to calculate multiplication problems using pinecones, nuts, rocks, etc. Can you make an array to solve a multiplication problem? Can you make an array and then write a multiplication problem to go with it?
- Nature Algebra – 4 leaves = 16, what does each leaf represent? Children can do outdoor chalk problems & code ‘cracking’. What could you do to solve this problem? What type of arithmetic will you need to solve this?
- Stick Fractions – Children can represent fractions by breaking apart sticks into pieces (half, thirds, quarters, etc.). Children can then see how the different the values of fractions look like relative to one another. Which is larger- 1/3 or 1/2? Can you show me? How many quarters make a half.
- Nature fraction board– Children can create a ‘fraction board’ by drawing a shape (such as a square, rectangle, circle or triangle) that can be divided up in equal pieces (they could do halves, thirds, quarters, etc.). They might also use an old frying pan or baking tray filled with dirt or sand that is divided up by drawing lines or using sticks. Children can represent fractions by shading it in, by scraping it, covering it with objects etc. They can then use numbers to represent the corresponding fraction (and decimals) they have made. How much is shaded? Can you write this as a fraction? How would you write this as a decimal?
- Decimals and fractions with tens frame– Children can use a tens frame to represent fractions and decimals. For example, using rocks, one rock could represent .1 or 1/10 so that 10 rocks = 1 whole. How many squares are covered? Can you write this in a fraction? Can you write this as a decimal?
**See my post, Outdoor Problem Solving Activities for KS2 for problems solving activities that involve arithmetic.
Measurement – Teaching Maths Outside
Volume & capacity
- Potions– Children can use cylinders, measuring cups and other devices to measure ingredients for making ‘potions’. They might also use weighing scales for ingredients such as nuts, pebbles, etc. Potion making is an opportunity to measure weight and volume/capacity. Can you follow the recipe? Can you create your own recipe? What if you add 15 more ml of water- how much will that be in total?
- Displacement– Children can use measuring cylinders, beakers, or cups to explore how to measure the amount of displacement that results when objects are placed into them. They can find the difference between the original volume and the volume that results when the object is placed in the water. What is the volume of the object? How do you know? Can you write an equation to go with this (hint- use subtraction problem when finding the difference)? Do heavier objects always displace more water than lighter ones? How do you know?
- Rain gauge– Children can measure rainfall using a rain gauge. What is the best unit of measurement? Meters, centimetres, or millimetres? Why? Can you keep track, and compare and chart rainfall on different days including using a bar chart? Can you figure out the total rainfall over a week, fortnight or month?
- Exploring syringes with water play – Can you measure the capacity of the syringes? What instrument might you need to help you? Children can explore the relationship between the size/capacity of the syringe and the distance the water can squirt. How can this be measured?
Length & distance
- Make a meter– Children can estimate 1 meter length by using natural objects (e.g. pinecones, sticks or rocks). They can then use a measuring stick or line to check their work.
- Investigate length and weight– Is it true that the larger the pinecone is, the more that it weighs? Children can use scales to see if larger pinecones always weigh more than smaller ones. *They need to decide how to define large vs small (e.g. is it length, width or circumference)? Children could do a similar investigation with rocks or sticks.
- Plant growth– Children can track the growth of plants. Which plant is growing the fastest? How do you know? Can you find the rate of growth? Can you show your data on a chart?
- Finding the height of a tree– Challenge children to measure or calculate the size of a tree. There are several methods including the shadow & calculation method, triangle method or clinometer method. See if they can try several ways and compare their results.
- Measuring jumps– Children can practice measuring how far they can jump to the nearest centimeter or even millimeter. They can figure out who jumps the farthest and by how much. They could find the difference between their jumps to see how much they improve. Who jumped the farthest? Who improved the most? How do you know?
- Angle hunt– Children could also make a ‘right angle’ out of sticks or a piece of square plastic (preferably transparent). Then they can use their angle to identify objects that have right angles, and also identify objects that have angles greater than 90 degrees (obtuse) or less than 90 degrees (acute). Do right angles exist in nature? How do you know?
- Measuring angles outdoors– Children might use a protractor to measure angles outdoors – e.g. angles of branches, the offshoots of plants, or manmade things such as parts of buildings. What’s the smallest angle you can find? The largest? See the forest triangle activity below.
- Stick angles– Children can compare angles with, their own angles made with sticks (demonstrating acute, right, or obtuse angles). Can you make a right angle? Acute? Obtuse? Can you measure it to find the angle?
- Observing the moon & sun– These are some questions for observation, exploration and investigation: The time when the sun sets and rises– Does this change? How do you know? Where on the horizon do you first/last see the sun or the moon? Does this change from day to day? How do you know? Phases of the moon — How does it change? Do you notice any patterns? Children might make a sundial as part of their exploration.
- Stone stacking – Children can make stone towers and even more intricate balancing formations such as arches. This activity is also an excellent way for older children to explore balance and centre of gravity.
- Investigating Circles– Children can measure circles (such as flower pots, or tree stumps) or other circular objects found outside. They can measure the circumference, radius and diameter, and then investigate the relationship between diameter and circumference.
- Large Sidewalk Chalk Shapes– Children can create a large shape (e.g. a square) with masking tape on the pavement. Next they can use masking tape to make other shapes within the larger shape. Finally, for fun they can colour colour in the shapes using sidewalk chalk to make a large picture. How many / what types of shapes have you made? Can you only make triangles? Why or why not? Can you prove it? What do you notice about your picture?
- Forrest Triangles– Children can use ropes between trees in the forest to create triangles. They can measure and calculate perimeters and even explore the relationships between different triangles that they create. Can you change the shape of the triangle? How can you make a larger or smaller triangle? Can you make one with an obtuse or acute angle?
- Egyptian Triangles– Ancient Egyptians made triangles with right-angles using ropes that were knotted into 12 equal lengths. With a 12 knotted rope, what triangles can you make? *With a knot in each corner, what other regular (equal sided and angled) shapes you can make?
- Draw a circle– Challenge children to figure out how to draw an accurate circle outside (eg with chalk on pavement). What would you need to use to make it look terrific (ex. string)? Can you find a different way?
- Venn diagrams with hoops or circles drawn with chalk– Children can explore different variables. You may want to see my post doing this with leaves.
- See above – Plant growth & rain gauge. Children can create data charts using their measurements of plants or rainfall.
I hope that these outdoor maths activities for KS2 have been helpful and that you get to enjoy teaching some maths lessons outside! Good luck!