Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Taking Math Class Outside

basketball by mdlsoft -  basketball hoop and ball - vectorized

Some people seem to believe that math class should always involve students quietly sitting at desks, working with pencil and paper on problems out of the textbook. This sort of lesson is a useful tool, but it can get boring if that's all you do, day after day...

I believe in taking classes outside. Yes, the students get distracted---but they get distracted inside, too. It's a nice change of pace from time to time, and the students enjoy it. You have to be smart about it, though---I had a professor in college who had class outside with us once, but he was giving a PowerPoint presentation while we were trying to follow along on laptops, except we couldn't see because of the glare...not the best lesson ever.

However, I've found several ways to get my classes out into the fresh air. Sometimes the students were engaged in doing math. Sometimes they were distracted and just wanted to play. Most of the time it was a combination of the two. Here are some of the activities I've done:

  • Scavenger Hunts: I did one for measurement with grade 6 (they had to measure various objects with their rulers and convert between cm and m). I also tried one for volume with grade 10---they had to find objects in various shapes, measure them, and find the volume. Most of them found stuff in teachers' classrooms, or even tried to make stuff out of paper and pass that off as their find. If I did that activity again, I would tell them they had to find the objects outside.
  • Transformations: Kids made various shapes on the basketball court and then I gave them either a vector translation (for geometric shapes), or a changed equation (for graphs of parabolas).

  • Finding leaves: Students picked ten leaves from the same tree, measured them, and found the mean and standard deviation (I got this idea from somewhere, but I don't remember exactly where).
  • Spreading out groups: more space than indoors.
  • Review games: like math basketball, etc.
  • Sports Statistics: This one was fun. I had the PE teacher give a guest talk about sports statistics, and then we went to the basketball court and found our class free-throw average
How do you get your math students outside?

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