Head to the Playground to Learn Math!

Remember field trips? Remember how much fun they were?

Remember how much you learned?

You were learning, you know. When students leave the classroom, they start to see the connections between what they see in their textbooks and what can be found in the real world. They begin to understand that what they learn in the classroom can help them solve real problems.

That’s why getting outdoors is so important. Here at No Fault, we’re always talking about the importance of outdoor play. On the playground, outdoor play balances the education that goes on in the classroom. But outdoor learning is important, too! As we will see, a “place-based” learning experience is a new lens through which students see and understand the world.

Today we’re going to talk about how learning can take place outdoors and how playtime isn’t the only activity that can happen at recess. In fact, the playground (or nearly any outdoors area) can be used to “discover” mathematics and other academic subjects rather than being an “escape” from them!

Be Aware of Different Learning Styles

It all starts with understanding that children are all different. Many young students are “nontraditional learners;” for them, being outside provides an opportunity to engage through physical movement. Being outside also encourages independence and builds confidence. This growth is part of physical fitness, sure, but did you know that it’s also a part of intellectual development?

Effective teaching requires different ways of presenting concepts and skills to help students internalize new learning and retain knowledge. Playgrounds (and the great outdoors in general, even if we’re just talking about city streets) can create meaningful opportunities to learn or reinforce concepts and skills taught in the classroom. 

Even youngsters who normally do well in the classroom find that spending time outside offers a fun change of pace from a classroom-based, teacher-directed, textbook-centered experience. If you are a teacher and you incorporate outdoor learning, you may find that some children who never responded in a traditional classroom will do very well outside. For these boys and girls, something “clicks” and they start to grasp the concepts from their textbooks. 

Taking Math Outside

Math. Just the word itself is enough to make some of us nervous! When you think about learning mathematics, you usually picture classrooms, desks and thick, intimidating books, right?

Natural outdoor settings hold endless possibilities for learning about math. That’s why early childhood educators are starting to teach their students about numbers and spatial relationships in natural outdoor settings.

One organization in New York called UrbanMathTrails, a math education consultancy, is taking mathematics out of the textbooks and inspiring children to discover math in the environment around them.

Jan Cohen is the founder. She says parks and other natural habitats, playgrounds, zoos, and neighborhoods have “kinesthetic, naturalist and spatial elements” that support “mathematical thinking” and that gets children excited about math. She says her “learning outdoors” approach is great at cultivating problem-solving skills, creativity, and decision-making. 

This approach encourages students to use spatial awareness to solve problems. For example, basketball courts, running tracks and play equipment can be creatively leveraged into engaging lessons about numbers and operations, measurement and data, geometry, ratios and proportions, and even algebraic thinking.

Even walking around the school building itself offers opportunities for measurement activities using both non-standard (hand span, arm span, step length) and standard measurement units (feet and meters). With a tape measure (one that has both inch and centimeter units), you can guide students as they convert lengths, widths, and heights to feet, yards and meters, practicing division to solve application problems. You can teach children how to convert units of measurement within and between the metric system and the U.S. measurement system. 

Math Problems Outdoors

In addition to the example above, here are a few math activities that can be taken outdoors.

  • Explore the relationship between perimeter and area. 
  • Compare lengths of lanes in a running track to determine the correct starting position in each lane to ensure that all competitors run the same distance.
  • Calculate slopes. By learning how to measure a change in elevation, students are exposed to another concept in engineering.
  • Measure heights using corresponding shadows. 
  • Identify and measure different types of angles (acute, obtuse, right or straight)
  • Practice using geometric terms. When students are challenged to communicate math orally, their understanding of concepts and skills improve.

Tools to Get Started

Activating the outdoors for math learning requires very few materials. Sidewalk chalk, measuring tapes, string, clipboards and pencils are enough to get started. 

Have a plan when you head outdoors. Don’t just wander around! Know what concepts you’ll be teaching.

Group the students for specific activities. Students can learn to work with a partner or in a team. Student interaction with one another builds observation skills and enables students to retain information through experience and teamwork. 

In many ways, the playground facilitates cooperative learning.  It builds an appreciation of the outdoors for lifelong learning and enjoyment, adds variety and fun to the math curriculum and experience. It should come as no surprise that playgrounds can also reinforce the math skills learned in class.

Rain or Shine, Shades Have Your Play Area Covered!

All too often, canopies and shade structures are an afterthought. So much time is spent designing a playground, choosing the right equipment, and finding the rubber surfacing to keep children safe, that not much thought (or budget) goes into what should cover the playground area. 

Shade structures add protection, visual appeal and value to any space, so don’t forget about them!

These covers come in sturdy powder-coated frames, colorful fabric canopies, and sizes and shapes that perfectly match your play environment. But it turns out, they aren’t just for looks. They’re also the first step to reducing risk and protecting your investment.

Block UV Rays 

Sidney D. Torres Memorial Park, Chalmette, LA – No Fault Safety Surface & Little Tikes Commercial
Playground Equipment

Today’s functional, durable and beautiful shade installations can be custom-designed for every need. One of the most important needs is protecting children from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. 

Children can be obstinate about using sunscreen, so you have to be proactive about shielding them from mother nature’s harsh outdoor elements. Shades keep everyone cool. They can also help prevent sunburns, heat exhaustion and other sun-related ailments. One blistering sunburn can increase a child’s risk of getting skin cancer later in life.

During the hot summer months, the risk of burns from exposure to the sun increases. Older playgrounds in particular may have bare metal climbing structures and metal slides that get blazing hot in the sunshine—even on a temperate day!

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that one child received second-degree burns from a slide when the temperature outside was only 74 degrees. A well-designed covering would have made this highly unlikely.

Remember: Outdoor shade structures aren’t just for playgrounds! Placing them over benches and picnic tables can help keep families and caregivers cool while the children play.  

Extend Outdoor Time 

Reserve at Bossier City, Bossier City, Louisiana – No Fault Safety Surface & Miracle Playground Equipment

Protect Your Investment

Adding shade to your recreational space, play area or other outdoor space can protect playground equipment or any other assets on your property from sun damage.

In addition to cooling the playground, shade structures will actually increase the life of the playground equipment. Shades and canopies protect equipment against fading and cracking that happens from sun exposure over time. When plastic is overheated, warping and cracking will occur, which creates a hazard for children at play.

Take it from us, using an overhead shade can keep No Fault products, as well as your playground equipment, looking great and working optimally for years to come. 

USA Shade & Fabric Structures is a great source to use when purchasing shade structures for your playground, aquatic and athletic areas to name a few. Check out their website for more information.

Conclusion

Are you guilty of forgetting what goes overhead? 

Modern shading solutions are designed to look great while providing functionality. High-quality fabric and other materials ensure years of use and sun protection in many types of weather.  

Here at No Fault, we can answer your questions about playground design, renovating and updating old play areas, and more—including sending you referrals for some of the best shade manufacturers in the business. Call us today, and we’ll be glad to help!