Fun Hands-On Math Activities Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series on fun math activities you can do at home. You can find a list of all the posts in this series in the “Fun Math Activities” section on the Home Education Tips page.

More on Math, Mapping, and Landscaping

In Part 1 of this series of “fun hands-on math activities” I mentioned using math, mapping, and landscaping.  Here’s an example of how this worked with one of my students: “We used a measuring tape to measure the size of the yard and mark it on graph paper. Next, we measured the house, and its distance from the edges of the yard, and marked it on the graph paper. After that, we marked all the plants, sidewalks, picnic table, woodpile and other items in the yard. After we’d measured some distances, I had A. ‘estimate’ other distances, then we checked them with the measuring tape. After we finished the “rough copy” of the yard map, we sat at the table. I had A. suggest what symbols we could use for various items in the yard (for example, logs for the firewood, flower picture for the flower bed, and plate/ knife/ spoon for the picnic table. Also, I asked Aiden if he knew where “north” is, and he was able to tell me correctly–a compass is handy to back this up. I also showed A. how to add a scale to the map.” Of course, once the mapping is done, you can follow up by deciding on new plantings and other landscaping changes, and then keep records of the results in as many mathematical ways as possible. Math has so many interesting applications … many of them right in your own backyard! (This same kind of activity could be used to decide where to place your tent and other equipment in a camping spot, or the best area to play a game like croquet at the park, and so on. Check out the previous discussion for more details.)

Outdoor Explorations and Nature Notebooks

When you do outdoors activities such as hiking and camping (or even just a visit to the local park), be sure to take along nature guidebooks, notebooks (sketch pads are ideal), rulers and measuring tapes, a compass, a good magnifying glass, a camera that can take good close-ups, and so on. As you explore nature, encourage your children to record their observations, and set the example by making your own notebook. I did this with my own children, and we each ended up with our own “Nature Notebooks.” For an example of how this works, check out my “Nature Notebook” which describes science/math field trips I did with my children on Haida Gwaii when we were homeschooling–Bird Sanctuary; Forest Discoveries; Culturally Modified Trees; Weather Changes; and more. There are so many outdoor activities that involve math: keep track of temperatures and rainfall and graph them; measure branches, stems, etc. and record their growth over time; record the rise and fall of creek and lake levels through the seasons; and so on. Use these mathematical observations to learn more about science, too. Your family will quickly become naturalists! And explore math in these ways in your own yard and garden, too!

More Fun With Geometry

In the first post in this series on fun, hands-on math activities, we briefly mentioned some activities to do with geometric shapes. Here are some more suggestions:
– photocopy flattened geometric designs (there is a good selection here), cut them out, and glue them into their 3D shapes. Discuss how you can use these shapes for things like Christmas tree decorations; make them from shiny paper and hang them as a mobile by the window to reflect the sun; use firmer paper/cardboard to make many-sided dice and invent games; construct unusual “buildings” and “towers” by combining shapes; and so on.
– Extend your study by talking about other forms of paper-folding like origami and paper-plane making. There are many excellent books in the library that show how to do these forms, but also encourage children to experiment with their own forms, based on what they’ve learned about geometry.
– Read the  Curious George book, Curious George Rides a Bike, and make a folded paper boat as Curious George did it in the book.
– Gather a variety of resources that feature “hands-on”  practical math. Check out your local library or bookstore or even the children’s book section of your local thrift stores for books of “magic science tricks,” paper aircraft instructions, various math “activities,” instructions on how to make birdhouses, home science, beading (patterns), etc. All these different activities involve mathematical concepts which you can introduce as you have fun together making different items or trying tricks and experiments.
– Cut and fold paper triangles to form isosceles triangles, right triangles, parallelograms, squares, and other shapes and designs based on triangles.
– Use a tangram set to make many different geometric shapes, and then make pictures using the shapes. This is a great outdoor activity; sit at the picnic table and observe nature. What shapes and patterns do you see? Try to recreate natural items (trees, plants, mountains, etc.) using the tangram shapes.
– Do the same thing with human-made objects. What shapes have been used? 2D? 3D? Can you recreate them with tangrams or with the 3D shapes you created earlier with paper?




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