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Outdoor Maths For EYFS

Outdoor Maths For EYFS

Bring mathematics outdoors with fun and engaging outdoor maths activities for Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) children. Support your pupils in mathematics with exciting outdoor maths challenges and games that stimulate the brain and encourage early years maths development.

Methods To Encourage Children To Engage With Maths

Teaching children’s maths, especially in EYFS involves thoughtful approaches and practices. Let’s explore some effective methods and potential challenges that teachers can find: 

Problem-Solving Skills

Encouraging children to think critically and solve problems is essential. Teachers can use maths challenges that involve puzzles, patterns, and logical reasoning. These activities foster mathematical thinking and creativity.  

  • Concrete Materials: Use tangible objects like blocks, counters, or shapes to demonstrate mathematical concepts.
  • Open-Ended Questions: Ask questions that encourage exploration and reasoning.
  • Real-Life Context: Relate maths to everyday situations, such as counting objects during playtime or measuring ingredients while baking.

Early Learning Goals

  • Counting: Teachers focus on developing children’s counting skills. They use counting rhymes, songs, and visual aids to reinforce number sequences.
  • Subitizing: Subitizing is recognising the number of objects without counting. Teachers use dice, dot patterns, and ten frames to help children quickly recognise small quantities.
  • Shape Recognition: Introduce basic shapes through play and exploration.
  • Measurement: Teachers engage children in measuring activities using non-standard units (e.g. comparing lengths with blocks) and later introduce standard units (e.g., centimetres).
  • Patterns: Explore patterns through art, music, and movement.

Even though there are many different ways to engage your children with maths, it's important to also know the challenges that can occur.

12 children and 1 teacher are sat inside a gazebo outdoor classroom, ready to learn maths. All the people in the Gazebo are looking at the camera and waving.

Challenges with Children’s Attention Spans

  • Limited Focus: Younger children have shorter attention spans. Teachers need to plan short, engaging maths activities and vary the learning environment to maintain interest.  
  • Distractions: Noise, visual stimuli, and other distractions can divert children’s attention. Creating a calm and organized classroom helps minimize distractions.  
  • Individual Differences: Children vary in their ability to sustain attention. Some may need more breaks or movement breaks to refocus.  
  • Active Learning: Incorporate movement, hands-on activities, and interactive games to keep children engaged.  
  • Visual Cues: Use visual cues (e.g., timers, visual schedules) to help children understand the passage of time and manage attention.  

Remember, teaching mathematics to young learners requires patience, creativity, and adaptability. By using evidence-based approaches and understanding individual needs, teachers can support children’s maths development effectively.

How Incorporating Outdoor Maths Activities Could Be Useful For Your Pupils

Utilising the playground can have numerous benefits for keeping pupils engaged and making maths enjoyable. Let’s explore some of the advantages of outdoor maths activities: 

Active Learning Through Play

Games and activities on the playground provide an opportunity for hands-on learning. When children engage with their outdoor environment and outdoor space, they actively explore and manipulate materials, fostering a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. 

One of the best outdoor maths resources for this would be Pentagon Play’s 1-49 Snakes and Ladders Playground Marking, encouraging children to problem solve, use mathematical thinking, and recognise numbers as they play!

A picture showing the graphic of the "1-49 Snakes and Ladders" Graphic. This version is the outline, only showing red lines, orange and purple snakes, brown ladders and white numbers.

It is also a great resource to encourage children to investigate mathematics further and help children understand addition, multiplication, and division.  

For instance, games involving counting, patterns, and shapes encourage mathematical problem solving while children have fun. Pentagon Play has a wide range of Playground Markings to help children with counting and shape recognition such as 0-20 Number Snake, 1-100 Number Grid or, even Pentagon Play’s 1-20 Shapes Playground Marking.

Each Marking creates a fun and exciting way of engaging in maths outdoors while learning about numbers and shapes while being active.

Zoltan Diene’s Approach

Mathematician Zoltan Diene believed that games and outdoor play could improve mental health and promote effective learning in children. He advocated for a shift away from dry, abstract math ideas towards playful exploration.

Two children are stood outside with a giant whiteboard and are writing numbers on it. The girl is smiling as she's writing.

Diene observed that children naturally classify, order, and transform objects during play. These stages align with his theory for learning mathematics, his maths ideas were: 

  • Free Play: Initial exploration and trial-and-error with materials.
  • Rules of the Games: Identifying regularities and creating rules.
  • Comparison: Comparing games and articulating discoveries.
  • Representation: Using visual aids (charts, diagrams) to anchor patterns.
  • Symbolisation: Mapping ideas and developing a language around games.
  • Formalisation: Applying learned concepts to test and prove theories.

Improved Outcomes

According to an Ofsted study, hands-on activities (such as those found on playgrounds and outdoor play) lead to better achievement, standards, motivation, personal development, and behaviour among pupils and students.

Math-Infused Playground Markings

Playground surfaces with thermoplastic markings can incorporate numbers, letters, shapes, and patterns. As above Pentagon Play has a fantastic range of Playground Markings: 1-10 Caterpillar, 0-20 Number Snake, 1-100 Number Grid, 1-20 Shapes, and more!

Two children are playing on the 1-20 dragon playground marking. The start at the tail which is labelled one (and furthest from the camera) and are ready to work their way up the number chain towards the dragon's head (close to the camera).

Hopscotch games improve counting skills, while alphabet markings aid in letter recognition and spelling practice during outdoor play.  Pentagon Play has numerous individual or group Hopscotch Playground Markings to choose from.

In summary, integrating maths activities into playtime on the playground not only keeps pupils engaged but also makes learning enjoyable and memorable.

Outdoor Maths Activities

Engaging young children in maths outdoors is not only fun but also helps them develop mathematical concepts through hands-on experiences. Here are five delightful outdoor math activities suitable for EYFS children: 

Number Games Involving Counting

Play classic games like “Hide and Seek” or “What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf?” outdoors. These games are guaranteed to be your children's favourite outdoor maths activities! Pentagon Play has an outdoor Mr. Wolf Playground Marking that could be incorporated into children’s everyday outdoor play activities, as well as encouraging mathematical and physical activity during playtime.

Four children are playing the game "Mr Wolf". One of the children is Mr Wolf and is standing with his back towards his camera, quite far away. The other three kids are ready to move closer to him as they are closer to the camera.

Other maths ideas are: Create a target on the ground using chalk or mud. Children can throw bean bags or balls onto the target and name the number they land on or count the points they score. Pentagon Play also provides a range of Targets that are wall-mounted for children to play with. Such as:  

Pentagon Play’s Goal Target - developing hand-eye and foot-eye coordination as children use balls or bean bags to hit their target numbers while counting in 10’s (10-40).  

Pentagon Play's Shapes Target - where children can target shapes, or numbers ranging from 1-6 or numbers counting in 5’s (5-15).  

Pentagon Play’s Number Target Playground Marking - which can help children re-engage with numeracy lessons by learning about addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication while developing key skills such as coordination and hand-eye coordination, while they have fun during their outdoor play! 

Other outdoor maths challenges, such as Skittle games, allow children to count the number of Skittles they knock down providing practice in subtraction skills.  

Ten-Frame or Five-Frame Maths Activities

Set up an outdoor frame using sticks or chalk on the ground. Arrange natural objects (such as leaves, pebbles, or sticks) onto the frame. Pentagon Play’s Outline Shapes Playground Marking could be a lovely addition to this children’s maths exercise, where children can arrange their materials in each of the 5 different shapes, therefore learning to categorise objects whilst learning about different shapes.

A picture showing the 5 shapes that are included within the Pentagon Play’s Outline Shapes Playground Marking set. Those shapes are a yellow hexagon, a red star, a green circle, a purple triangle and a blue square.

Children can explore different maths ideas and arrangements, count the items, and practice addition and subtraction using the frame.

Numbers in the Outdoor Environment

Display natural numbers (e.g. written on stones or wooden blocks) outdoors. This is a lovely outdoor maths EYFS activity that encourages children to notice these numbers and count objects they find outside, matching them to the numerals.  

Attach simple number flashcards to bikes or cars within the setting. Children can park the bikes in corresponding spaces or arrange them in order. 

Writing Numbers Creatively

Use the environment and natural objects to inspire number formation: 

  • Write large-scale numbers in chalk on the ground.  
  • Create numerals using sticks in mud.  
  • Arrange sticks and stones to represent numerals. 

A girl and a teacher are sat at an easel table, practicing writing letters and numbers, whilst a child runs around the bench towards the play area.

Use paintbrushes and water to form numbers. Pentagon Play’s Scribble Boards or Essential Range Group Art Easel would be the perfect resources, for children to use when doing outdoor maths activities such as painting numbers with water. Allowing children to work collaboratively whilst learning about numbers.

Mathematical Language Opportunities

Outdoor mathematical activities should encourage children to use mathematical language: 

  • Discuss the growth of bean plants that have been planted in one of Pentagon Plays Planters (“How many bean plants are growing?”, “How tall in centimetres is it?” etc.) 
  • Compare quantities in one of Pentagon Play’s Mud Kitchens (“Are there more bowls or spoons?”, “How many cups of water fill the bowl?” etc) 
  • Explore simple addition and subtraction scenarios (“If I add one more stone to this pile, how man would there be?) 

Remember, the outdoor learning environment provides abundant opportunities for children’s maths such as mathematical exploration, problem-solving, and sensory experiences. Let’s make maths fun and engaging for our little learners!