If you think about maths at school then – probably after a pang of dread – the image that comes to mind will undoubtedly involve protractors, pencils, calculators and a desk. While there is no getting away from the fact that much of the learning of this core subject has to be taught in a classroom in this way, it isn’t the only way forward.
It’s perfectly possible for children to grasp and perfect some key mathematical concepts away from the classroom. Often these lessons allow for a fun and practical application of lessons that are needed in order for children to be able to think mathematically.
Sport is full of scoring and timing
Consider sport, for example. This is absolutely riddled with opportunities to sharpen your number skills. Every sport you can think of has some form of scoring system which aids counting and memory skills. Some sports have a particularly complex relationship with numbers too.
Multi-time darts champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, for example, points out how darts can sharpen up anyone’s counting skills – with players needing the double and treble numbers and work out combinations of numbers to be able to ‘finish’.
As Taylor said: “Get children playing the game and they’ll soon be able to add, subtract and multiply. I know every combination on a dartboard. If I hear someone say they live at number 37, I automatically think, ‘5, double 16.’”
Scoring is one way in which sport and numbers are closely linked, and timing is another. Stopwatches are crucial to tracking your times in many sporting events and help children consider hours, minutes and seconds and work out the difference between times – more great skills for adding and subtracting.
Sports and games such as this can be encouraged in and out of school, so that children naturally pick up a flair for maths that will stand them in good stead when they are grappling with that protractor and calculator at their desk.
Non sporting lessons
Being outside doesn’t just mean PE lessons and sport. There are a great many practical ways to help children to understand mathematical principles beyond the walls of the classroom.
From traffic counts to give data for graphs, right through to finding symmetry in the natural environment, or playing games that help to pass the time on long bus and car journeys, there are plenty of opportunities to help children visualise maths in real life situations. In fact, doing so can often help children to truly understand concepts that are otherwise abstract.
Again, these can be fun for children – who would enjoy the licence to be able to head outside and start measuring everything in their garden or school playground, for example.
Maths is such an important subject, but it can also be difficult to grasp for children and hard to make fun and engaging for teachers. Indeed, one in two pupils find maths and science too difficult or too boring – a big problem when it comes to the skills needed in the UK economy. By heading outside children can pick up much of the mathematical fundamentals they need in an engaging and highly practical way and help to reduce those numbers.