Go Outside for Math in the Spring

May 10, 2018 | Naperville

Doing fun math activities outdoors creates positive memories. Positive memories help your child retain the math they learn. Springtime invites outdoor fun. So get outside and try these two math activities.

Activity #1

Memorize math facts while doing a rhythmic and active motion like hula-hoop, hopscotch, playing catch, shooting hoops, jumping rope, or running.  



1) Choose fact-families that your child should memorize.

Examples of fact families are: 3+7=10, 10-3=7, 7+3=10, 10-7=3; and 13x13=169, 169/13=13; and 42=16, the square root of 16 is 4.

2) Organize the facts into sets, with five facts or fewer, per set. Each time you or your child does the chosen motion (throws the ball, jumps rope, etc.) recite one of the math facts. When the child gets the first set memorized, move on to the second set. Keep going until the child can easily recite both sets easily.

3) Repeat the activity with the same facts later that week. Add a new set of facts when the child easily recites the first two sets anywhere and anytime.

How the activity helps: Memorizing math facts helps kids develop automaticity, which frees up the brain for more complex math. Adding a rhythmic activity makes practicing more fun and engages kinesthetic learning modalities. They will probably practice for a longer time this way than they would sitting with flashcards. Memorizing while having fun and exercising will help the child recall the facts.

Activity #2

Go on a nature walk and record what you see. Repeat the nature walk a few weeks later. Use math to describe the changes between the first and second nature walk.


1)   Decide together what you should look for during the walk. Young kids should count things that are easy to spot and classify, like rabbits, flowers, and butterflies. Older kids can look for less obvious items like, trees and flowers of development (leaves, buds, or in bloom), small garden bugs, and human behavior (a few people bundled up and briskly walking their dog or many people picnicking and socializing).

2)   Go on the walk. Record with tally marks whatever you decided to count.

3)   When you get home, create a bar graph with the information gathered during the walk.

4)   In a few weeks, walk the same path and count the same types of things as last time.

5)   Make a new graph with the new information.

6)   Compare the two graphs. Use math to describe how people and/or plants and animals adapt, as the days get longer and warmer.

How the activity helps: Math is a language to help us describe the world around us. Kids don’t get enough practice using math as a tool to describe relationships. This activity also encourages divergent thinking.

Do you do other math activities outside? We’d love to hear about them.  Our unique approach to math instruction has helped many kids. Give us a call to see how we can help your family love math. Whether inside or outside, Mathnasium of Naperville encourages families to incorporate math into daily life and have fun with it!  

You might also like the book Math Trails and other Outside Math Adventures by Deborah Hale.


This article is copyright protected. Mathnasium of Naperville has permission to use it. Other Mathnasium locations must purchase it at http://hdwrite.com before using it.