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.

Take a walk on the wild side and create a maths trail. A trail can take many different forms - use our guidance below to form your own trail for your class.

Why do them?

  • Encourages mathematical thinking and talking
  • Encourages problem solving
  • The emphasis is on the journey through a problem rather than the answer
  • Facilitates group work and working collaboratively together
  • Active learners – the learning is in the doing!
  • Familiarises children with their surroundings
  • Trails emphasise the practical application of maths to the world around them
  • Maths is linked to everything in society –helps children make this link
  • Allows children to take responsibility for learning

 

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

Considerations:

  • What element of maths is the trail on?
  • —A trail can be devised for each strand to introduce a topic or reinforce learning
  • It is time consuming but worthwhile – they will not go ‘out-of-date’!
  • —Safety if it takes you outside the school
  • —Who is it for? Ages..
  • —Who is designing it?
  • —Where? Classroom/yard..
  • —Any equipment needed?
  • —Any helpers needed?
  • Time/weather dependent?

 

Types of trails:

Senses trail:

—  One child is blindfolded and can be:

  • given directions – left, right, 5 steps, 1 metre (link with spatial awareness)
  • identify shapes – how many corners, straight edges, etc...

 

Picture trail:

  • Using the iPods/school camera to take a picture of your answer
  • Using a picture to find information /certain location
  • Children design a trail using pictures they take

 

Homework trails:

Make it fun!

Ask pupils to take note of various elements they encounter every day. What shapes are they? How many of them do you see?

  • Road signs, traffic lights (how long does it stay on green?)
  • —Buildings/houses on their route home
  • —Distance / time taken to get home

 

IT and the internet:

A world of information at their finger tips!

  • Finding information on certain websites
  • Using the keyboard – what happens when you press F1? Location of keys...

Lunchtime Trails

  • Have different questions/brainteasers showing in the yard. (stuck on a window from the inside)
  • Have a box for children to post their answers in and have a weekly winner!

Tips for Success:

  • Don’t make it too long.
  • Produce an attractive layout to stimulate interest.
  • Include a wide variety of activities to maintain enjoyment and enthusiasm.
  • Have clear sections.
  • Don’t make it a race.
  • Include both open and closed tasks and vary the level of difficulty to provide for  the full age and ability range

 

Creating your own Maths 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.

Maths trails can 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 maths trails that target a range of mathematical understandings. Specifically, maths 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.

It is good to have a range of question starting points. Click on your relevant class below to see some examples of age related questions.

Junior and senior Infants

1st and 2nd class
3rd and 4th class 5th and 6th class

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.

 

Additional guidance:

See here for template for designing maths walks

Trailblazing: Article from InTouch magazine

The PDST have a page dedicated to designing trails.

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

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.

There is a walled garden trail available for schools to book and complete in Larne - what a great way to incorporate maths into a school trip!