Maths Trails

Walk on the wild side with Maths

 "Do you know what my worst lesson is? It’s maths…but I really like doing maths when it’s outdoors!"

"My favourite bit this week was the maths trail because it’s outside and you get to do more things."

The above sentiments were expressed by children, who had just completed a maths trail as part of their school’s mathematics week.

There are numerous mathematically rich examples, living and non-living, that can be found in the school playground, the local shopping centre, the neighbourhood park, the local sports ground, and the city museum/art gallery, to name a few.

Take a walk on the wild side and create a math trail. The trail consists of a sequence of designated sites along a planned route where students stop to explore mathematics in the environment.

 

Creating your own Math Trail

We recommend introducing children to math trails by having them explore, in small groups, 4-5 areas of interest within their own classroom. Writing a maths question for the area they are in. Following several of these classroom explorations and follow-up class discussions, children could venture outside to create maths questions at 4-5 named locations. These questions can then be discussed and developed into your very own maths trail.

It is good to have a range of question starting points, such as:

 

  • Look at that. Look around you. What can you see?
  • How many?
  • How far or near?
  • How long, short, tall, high, deep, heavy?
  • How much do you see? How much more is hidden?
  • Estimate the size, height, length, weight of …….?
  • What is the name of ……..?
  • Can you continue this pattern?
  • What is the chance of that?
  • What kind of shape? What shapes do you see? Draw them.
  • Why do you think the path does not follow a straight line?
  • What if we change this?
  • What if we add a line? What if we add a shape?
  • What difference does it make? Is it still symmetrical?
  • Could you make a pattern with …….?
  • Show that this works. Is it always true?

 

Maths trails can also be designed to link strands and strand units of the mathematics curriculum. The mathematics curriculum can also be linked and integrated with other subject areas such as PE, geography, history and science, using a topic-based trail.

Both students and teachers can create math trails that target a range of mathematical understandings. Specifically, math trails can be:

Student-generated, designed for their grade-level peers or younger peers to undertake;

Teacher-generated, which are trialled and modified by children to produce a new, improved math trail;

Teacher-generated, designed for children and their families to explore in their school surroundings, their home, or their local environment;

Teacher-generated, designed for their teaching peers to trial, improve, and implement. 

Examples of Maths Trails:

A student-generated math trail, The Easter Trail. It was created by a class of 7-year-old children, with some teacher support, for a parent/child activity day.

A Teacher-generated maths trail, Maths on the Quayside. It was created trialled and modified by 10-year-old children, with teacher support for a large cross school event. During the two day event 2,600 children walked this maths trail.

 A Teacher-generated maths trail, The Hidden Beauty within Durham City. It designed for 14-year-old children and their families to explore their local environment. The local Tourist Information Centre provide this trail to families who are interested in searching out the hidden maths in their city.

 Maths Week Ireland  maths trail takes a walk down South King Street in Dublin. This trail is designed to show young people and families that maths is related to the real world around them and that while challenging, maths can be enjoyable.

 

 USEFUL SITES

See here for template for designing maths walks

 

The following websites give background and ideas on how to organise a maths trail:

Trailblazing: Article from InTouch magazine

A pdf file which outlines the steps to making a maths trail, and gives some examples which are relevant to the Irish primary school maths curriculum.

www.primarymaths.ie/files/mathstrail1st2nd.pdf

A Maths trail of the Botanic Gardens, Dublin designed by Marino College of Education.

UK Maths Trails

www.foresteducation.org/resources/woodland_m_1122560070.pdf

An example of a woodland maths trail, developed with a view to reinforcing school maths and making a link with a woodland environment.

nrich.maths.org/public/viewer.php?obj_id=2579

From the NRICH group in University of Cambridge. Gives ideas on how to develop a maths trail, and gives locations in the UK of cultural sites which contain maths trails for children.

www.brandlingprimary.org/2007/06/maths_on_the_quayside.html

An example of a maths trail around the city of Newcastle.

www.larne.gov.uk/uploads/docs/Maths%20Work.pdf

an example of a maths trail in the UK with downloadable material.