Usually the first job of the day is to remove hats, coats and shoes. But on this morning the children were told to stay wrapped up. We were to be learning outdoors after the Year 3 students had devised a maths trail in the playground.
The Year 1 class came along to try out the trail to help us improve it. The older students introduced the maths trail and then paired up with the younger students to begin it. Groups of four children moved to different areas of the playground. The bell rang and the teacher said: "Are you ready? Let the maths begin."
We worked on questions such as:
- How many planks of wood are on this fence?
- How many straight lines are on the playground? How many circles?
- What is the circumference of the biggest circle on the playground?
We were counting, doubling and halving, exploring number bonds, classifying shapes, looking at points of the compass, estimating distance and so much more.
This had taken some planning. Pairs of Year 3 children had been allocated sections of the playground and devised questions to make up the trail. They downloaded an app that allowed them to create QR (quick response) codes, which they placed at appropriate points around the school grounds.
Later, when a QR code was scanned to reveal a problem, the Year 3s acted as teachers and helped the Year 1s to solve it.
After two minutes a bell rang and we all moved on to find the next question on the trail. When we finished, the Year 3s told us that the Year 1s were "amazing mathematicians". Feats that had particularly impressed them included realising that the circumference of the circle would be different when measured with different sized feet and noticing that in the number square in the playground all the red numbers were even and all the grey numbers were odd.
The Year 3 students took their mentoring role very seriously. They were problem posers, teaching by asking probing questions rather than simply giving answers; developing their mathematical understanding through instructing and collaborating with others. The next task is to refine the questions and try the maths trail out again with the Year 2s before it becomes a permanent fixture in the playground.
Tony Cotton is a writer and author of Understanding and Teaching Primary Mathematics. The class was taught by Emma Dobson at Horsforth St Mary's Primary School in Leeds
For outdoor maths resources try the TES Position, Direction and Movement collection. All the resources relate to shape and space on the numeracy curriculum.
Get students to locate activity stations using emmer88beetle's outdoor lesson plan.