Recently on Twitter, someone posted the following question:

With the weather getting better, what are the best Maths lessons to do outside?

I remember, as a younger student being really excited about outdoor lessons. Although, in my memory of them, I think we were sitting under a tree on a hot sunny day, colouring in or chatting with the teacher. When I became a teacher, I always thought it was one of the perks of the summer term to venture outside the classroom and see what excitements could happen.

If you’ve never tried it before, it’s well worth chatting to other departments about how they get things to work well. The science department are usually adventurous when it comes to taking students outside; obviously the PE department are skilled at it.

I remember taking one class outside to measure the speed of sound and then realised that the two groups were so far away from each other I couldn’t shout loud enough to give instructions to the other group that was far away, so I ended up running up and down the field to provide instructions. If you are going to venture outdoors, I would suggest ensuring all relevant instructions are given indoors first (and have a whistle handy).

Some of the summer lessons that have worked well in the past include:

1. Making clinometers and then using them for trigonometry outside, measuring the heights of buildings, trees etc
2. Tyres of Hanoi – the towers of Hanoi but with tyres. Paint 1,2,3 on some tyres, and students have to move them onto poles. You can run it as a race if you get two or three sets.
3. The leapfrog investigation – this worked well with 31 lily pads and 15 students on each side swapping places. Again, worth starting this in the classroom first so they can see the pattern and get the idea.
4. Magic squares with people. If you get some plain white T-shirts and write the numbers 1-9 on them, then you can challenge the students to form a square which adds to 15 (if brave, you can try up to a 5 x 5 square).
5. Circle time works nicely outside as well. Everyone stands in a circle and has a number; swap if you are a prime, odd, factor of 28, etc. I know you can do these all indoors, but outside has more space.
I appreciate it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but good luck if you decide to break down the classroom wall and take maths into the outside world. I hope it stays sunny for you.

by Jerome Foley