Ways to Invite Learning Numeracy Outside

By February 24, 2021Uncategorized
By Julie McLean and Chantal Larivière

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How can children learn math on the playground or in the school neighbourhood? How can we teach mathematical concepts as outlined in the curriculum out in nature?

Have you observed the shape of a sunflower, the structure of a snowflake or the leaves of a fern? In addition to its beauty, we can also observe the Fibonacci sequence in the sunflower. In the snowflake, we can observe hexagonal symmetry, and in the fern leaf we can observe fractal geometry.

In this blog post, we will briefly present some activities you can conduct with your students to invite learning numeracy outside of the classroom. This resource is part of “A Teacher’s Guidebook for bringing learning outside” — available on Thrive Outside.

Junior and Senior Kindergarten

Ask students to build their own scale. Afterwards, invite them to weigh and compare the mass of different elements in nature.


Measure and compare different masses using non-conventionnel units of measurement in the context of learning through play and inquiry-based learning.


Go on a number hunt. Invite students to search for numbers in the neighbourhood.


Write numbers or represent a quantity with natural loose parts in order to establish relationships between numbers.


Identify, explore, describe, compare and create patterns using natural loose parts.


Grades 1, 2 and 3

Represent numbers from 0 to 50 using natural loose parts and using different containers.


Use ten-frames to represent and solve problems of sharing and dividing equally between 2 and 4 people.


Use natural loose parts to measure the area of a surface.


Build various structures with natural loose parts and identify the shapes they contain.


Gather grains and seeds found in nature and compile them in a data table. Process, analyze and use them to formulate persuasive arguments and take educated decisions in various contexts of everyday life.


Observe snowflakes to recognize and describe patterns. Invite students to find other patterns in nature and then recreate them with natural loose parts.


Place containers of different capacities before students and invite them to estimate, measure and compare their capacities. Ask them to explain the effect of overfilling or under-filling containers.


Invite students to build paper airplanes. Throw the airplanes and measure the distances travelled using conventional and non conventional measurements (e.g. the length of a foot). Suggest materials or weather conditions that would cause variation in the paper plane’s movement (e.g. different thickness of paper, a windy day).


Observe symmetry in nature and invite students to recreate them with natural loose parts.


Ask students to draw a treasure hunt map. They will be invited to read the map and situate themselves on it and find the treasures. When they have found them, ask the students to describe their movements from one spot to another.


Grades 4, 5 and 6

Work on measuring by using trees in your playground or neighbourhood. Invite students to measure their circumference, their height, the distance from one tree to another, etc. If you have a tree stump, you can calculate the age of the tree by counting the tree rings.


Observe symmetry in nature: bilateral symmetry (by 2), pentagonal symmetry (by 5), hexagonal symmetry (by 6), cylindrical symmetry and fractal symmetry. Afterwards, invite students to establish symmetry by creating a mandala.


Ask students to draw a map to use for a treasure hunt and to describe hints using angles. Students will be invited to read, situate themselves on the map and find the treasures. When they have found the treasures, ask them to describe their movements from one spot to another.


Build a sundial. Students can describe the movement of shadows in time, calculate angles, visualize time passing, etc.


Estimate the length of a street or a path and estimate the time it will take to walk it at a normal pace. Take note of these variables and test out the walk while recording the time on a stopwatch and by measuring the return trip with a pedometer or by counting steps.


Take the temperature at different spots at different moments of the day, then compare and compile the data in order to graph it.


Build structures and observe the various types of triangles using the measurements of the angles or given sides.