Spark Math by Spark Education knows that as far as modern parenting goes, most of us want two very important things for our children. We want them to be successful in school and we want them to spend more time outdoors. Math and outdoor learning can feel opposing; studying is for inside and play is for outside. However, these two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, the benefits of taking learning (especially math) outdoors are overwhelming.
We’re diving into the science and mathematics of outdoor learning, just in time for the best outdoor weather.
Science-Based Benefits of Math Outdoors
According to a study by Pekrun and Linnenbrink-Garcia, acute doses of nature, whether through a window view of a tree-lined street or a walk in a park, have positive aftereffects on attention and working memory.
The idea that learning can only take place in a closed classroom while being a fairly “modern history” idea is antiquated and inaccurate. Studies suggest that students retain more academic information specifically in math and biology both during and after lessons conducted in nature or outdoor settings. While many educators are hesitant to move the classroom outside for fear of heightened inattention, research has shown that outdoor learning does quite the opposite. Being outdoors reduces stress in children (and adults) and helps to reset and refocus attention allowing for greater concentration, connection & comprehension. In fact, studies have shown that learning outdoors increases students’ interest in the subject being taught and their overall desire to learn.
On the very base level, being outdoors increases natural serotonin and dopamine. Those are the chemicals in your brain that make you happy and relaxed, creating the ideal learning environment.
Standford’s Development and Research in Early Mathematics Education Department takes this math learning a step further. In their research they show that incorporating nature play into early math learning helps develop stronger problem solving and critical thinking skills. This helps guide children to see the natural world mathematically, incorporating how children instinctively play outdoors into a practical math lesson. Whether the child is nature lover or just a lover of wild freedom, there are places to develop and encourage math skills that will inspire a greater understanding of math throughout their lives.
Math and the Outdoors at Home
So all of that information is nice, but how do you apply it? If you’re an educator, the answer is simple enough, consider an outdoor classroom day! For non-educators, you may wonder how to apply these principles at home. We’ve got a few easy recommendations to get you started. Note, whether you have lots of space to stretch, or just a patch of concrete to call your own, the benefits of sunshine and fresh air are the same. No outdoor space is inadequate for learning opportunities.
Homework in the Sun
One of the simplest ways to apply outdoor learning at home is to take homework outside. Create a minimalist space for your child to work, whether it’s at an outdoor table, a lap table or a comfy place on the ground. If your child doesn’t yet have homework sent by the school, give them short math worksheets or activities to practice outside. For homeschool families, consider taking math lessons outdoors.
Online Enrichment Unplugged
Taking part in an online math enrichment program like Spark Math has numerous benefits to improved math skills on its own. But level up the learning by moving those online classes to an offline space. As long as your wifi reaches you have the ability to take any kind of online-based curriculum outside. Reap the benefits of classroom structures while exploring the benefits of outdoor learning. This type of learning is especially great for children with neurodiversities because it allows for utilizing two proven learning methods in a way that provides them with the greatest opportunities for success.
Another great way to explore outdoor learning at home is through housework or chores. This starts to explore the child’s curiosity and problem solving skills combined with practical math. As this becomes an extension of their learning space it also becomes an extension of their responsibility to keep clean and tidy. Whether this is your time to discuss money and what it takes to earn it, or natural math by engaging conversation about estimations, time management, accumulation etc. Creating chores around outdoor spaces is a great way to stretch their legs and their learning.
Math Lessons by Mother Nature
Mother nature has a lot to teach us. Taking the opportunity to engage your child in these rich and beautiful natural math wonders can develop your child’s excitement and connection to math in the world around them. Consider making small changes to improve and engage your child’s natural math wonder!
If you’re looking for a program to improve your child’s math skills and still be able to take it outside, try Spark Math today! Sign up for your free trial class to see how Spark Math can engage and excite your child’s math curiosity!