Maths in the Outdoor!

I have chosen to blog about maths in the outdoors not only for the relevance to the module, Discovering Mathematics, but also for the relevance for my second year placement where I will be doing Outdoor Education.

Before coming to university, I would never have considered myself an outdoorsy person. I did not grow up in the type of family that went camping or went hill walking at the weekend. However, I have realised my keen interest in learning from the outdoors. I thoroughly enjoyed Brenda’s input on the Swedish curriculum and how they focus mainly on learning and playing outdoors. I am always particularly excitable when there is anything to do with health and wellbeing or outdoor education on our timetable – my friends sometimes think I am mad wanting to be outside in the freezing cold weather that we are having right now but personally I could not wait for Will’s outdoor education lecture!

I have realised I have learnt best when I am actively involved in a task and not just remember facts to reproduce my knowledge in an exam and this is something I have taken away from this lecture before I even think about writing what we actual participated in for the lecture. I believe I am not alone in this feeling and that children need to be actively involved in their learning to even remember a lesson let alone what was taught. Outdoor education has the potential to inspire and involve children in an active learning task.

Anyway I have already gone off on a tangent. The Maths and Outdoor Education input.

From what I have already learnt from this module – maths is literally hidden all around us, including outside. Now, you are probably thinking yes I know that if you cut a tree in half and you can tell how old it is from the rings on the stub.  However, there is so much more mathematical possibilities outside. I would never had thought the way a wave spirals as it comes into shore would involve mathematics. Yet, as I have already explained this concept in a previous post, “Creative Maths”, the spiral of a wave meets the golden ratio which links with Fibonacci’s sequence. Maths when you are stood outside it literally all around you – there has been mathematics concepts used for designing and creating any building you can see.

In this particular lecture, we looked at navigation in the outdoors. Something through doing my Duke of Edinburgh I thought I knew relatively a lot about – except I didn’t. I knew the basics and that was all.  For the reason that learning navigation is something we rarely do these days – we have GPRS on our phones, Sat Nav’s in our cars. Is there really a need for it any more with the technology we have? Simple answer yes. Although there is a great level of convenience with having a technology item tell us straight away where we are going and how long it will take to get there. There is the slight issue that all of the technology we have relies on the device having power. Our phones rely on having internet connect. What happens if we don’t have this? What I realised in this lecture is there are very limited people that have looked at a map recently or even know how to read a map.

I had never thought that I would have considered map reading to be fun. Once we had gone over the basics and everyone understood how to read a map. Will made it into a game – who could get to the next place the fastest. He would be given a set of the 6 point grid references (point A) for the starting position and a second set of 6 point grid references (point B) for where we were going – we had to find out the degree we were “walking” in on the map from point. We had to find who could find the degree the quickest – now we are a group of university students who got very into this and very competitive, very quickly. We all wanted to win.

No one was particular paying much attention to the fact we were having such fun reading a map. It could have kept us entertained for ages. Now with a group of primary fives – potentially it may need to be simplified a bit but I cannot see any reason why they wouldn’t act the same way. It gives them a chance to learn to read maps and actually enjoy it.

I feel this is something I could easily use in my future practice. I could easily take a group of children who have learnt to read maps and allow them to use estimation (another fundamental mathematical principle) to work out how long it would take us to walk from point A to point B using this chart below and compare it to reality of how long it did take us to walk and if we managed to do it in the correct direction the compass told us when we looked at it on the map.

Maths Outdoor I feel this is a beneficial and relatively easy way to get children engaged, outdoor, actively learning about map reading skills and take it away from constantly looking at a screen for directions and relying on a piece of technology to get us where we need to be.

I am thoroughly looking forward to getting outdoors in my future practice but in the near future for my learning from life placement – I hope to have the opportunity to either put these skills I have learnt into practice or learn even more about it and how it can influence my future practice.

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