Outdoor Activities/Problem Solving: Math Goes to the Playground
Swings, flowers, seesaws, trees - how many do we have of these?
- Grades: PreK–K
Skills: Children will use comparative language as they chart and graph the items on their playground.
- Ten each of four different stickers (simple dots or circles in different colors will work well)
- A large piece of oaktag divided into four columns and covered with a sheet of clear contact paper
- Permanent black magic marker
In Advance: Bring the laminated oaktag and stickers outside. Gather a few children together on the playground and invite them to look around and name some of the things they see. When a child names an item, use a marker to write the name of that item on the bottom of one column on the oaktag. Encourage that child or another to draw a small picture of that item next to your words. Continue until children have named and drawn four items on the playground, such as a slide, swings, trees, and buckets.
1 Point to each column on the oaktag and, together, name the four items again. Take out the stickers and look around as if searching very carefully. Say, "Hmmm, Sidney said he saw trees on our playground. Does anyone else see trees? Let's take a walk and find some." Bring along one type of sticker and, as children find trees, help them place one sticker - maybe a blue circle - on each. Once you have marked every tree with a blue sticker, search for the item in the next column, such as swings. Bring a different type of sticker this time - maybe orange circles - and help children put one on every swing you find. Continue until you have found and marked every item on your oaktag using a different type of sticker.
2 Hold up the oaktag and, again, point to the first column. Say, "We put blue stickers on all the trees on our playground." Show the children a blue sticker and invite them to run around and gather all the blue stickers from the trees. As they bring stickers back, help them to place them in your "tree" column. Do the same for the remaining three items.
3 Bring the oaktag, now a graph, indoors. Hang it so children can easily see and talk about it. (You might cover it with a second piece of clear contact to discourage children from removing stickers.) Leave the chart up a few days to encourage observations and comments. Children may begin to use comparative words and phrases such as "more than," "a little," "a lot," and "a few." Make comments such as, "Yes, Alyssa, there certainly are a lot of trees on the playground."
4 Later, go back outside and extend your graph. Help children make predictions about what you will find. Ask, "Do you think we will have more seesaws or swings? Let's find out. " If children become excited about graphing and comparing, try this activity in other areas.
Remember: If children who are gathering stickers bring back the wrong colors, say, "Oh, you found an orange sticker. Put that next to the other orange ones in our 'swings' column."
For younger children: Collect objects you find outdoors, including rocks, leaves, flowers, and twigs. Ask children to sort these and count the number of items in each group.
For older children: Continue making predictions. Ask, "Do you think we'll find more twigs or stones?"