The Covid-19 pandemic has forced schools around the world to shut, with millions of students now studying from home. Some of your pupils will be lucky enough to have a garden, so how can they use this garden to help them with their GCSE maths? The current lockdown rules in the UK also mean that pupils who don’t have a garden can now use parks and other outdoor spaces more easily as long as they maintain social distancing. However – with fast changing rules on what we can and can’t do, it is important to double check what is allowed right now.

Many primary schools will be used to doing maths outside, whereas it is much less common for secondary pupils to work outside. It is important to gauge how your pupils will react to these activities, for many older pupils in Key Stage 4 and above, they could feel embarrassed about doing maths outside, but as their teacher you will know best how to pitch it in the right way. Here are some ideas for doing GCSE maths outside.

Encourage your pupils to study outside for at least half an hour each day, weather permitting. Being outside can help boost our mood and can also motivate us in other ways. If we are sat in a park with our revision materials laid out then we feel pressure to look like we are working, even when we are feeling unmotivated. Depending on your school policies on sharing photos, can your pupils share a picture of their outdoor workstation or a picture of them working outside?

If you are teaching loci, then why not challenge your pupils to construct one of their answers outdoors and send you in a photo? They could use chalk, gravel or leaves to mark out the loci. Having a physical feel for loci can be really helpful.

This is another topic which can benefit from using physical objects to help represent what is going on. Get your pupils to draw out three circles, using chalk, hoops or string and then fill them with objects in order to answer their GCSE maths problems. Do your pupils find Venn diagrams much easier to understand once they have tried this practical approach?

Combine PE with maths when you are covering speed distance time. Get pupils to measure the length of their garden and then use a stop watch to time how long it takes them to run/walk down the garden. Some of your pupils might not have a tape measure so encourage them to estimate, perhaps by measuring the length of their step using a small ruler. If the garden is too small then why not get them to time a bike ride, and look up the distance, enabling them to find out their average speed? If you want the class to compete with each other then get them to measure 100m and get them to run it and then compare the time (they will need a park for this). They could also plot a speed distance time graph to describe a walk during their day.

Ask pupils to measure something in their garden – a shed, the whole garden or maybe a patio. If they measure it in metres, can they convert it into square centimetres or even square feet? Offer them some prices per square metre, for turf/paving slabs/concrete – what would it cost for them to cover their garden in a different material?

Pupils can design an experiment to test out a probability. If they shoot 100 footballs into a net, then how many does their sibling manage to save? Let pupils design an experiment which is interesting to them.

This topic is probably the most obvious topic to be covered in the garden and there are endless experiments which could be carried out. You could do a garden bird count and produce graphs of which birds were seen by different members of the class. You could turn over your plant pots and count how many creepy crawlies you find. (Not necessarily a popular activity with some of the more squeamish older pupils.) You could also time how long it takes to do 20 star jumps, 20 press ups etc. (Don’t forget advice about warming up etc.)

You could count vehicles and make a pie chart of the types of vehicles which pass your garden in half an hour. (Is it mainly delivery vans which are out and about or are there lots of private cars?) With some of this data you can calculate mean, median, mode, etc. If it doesn’t feel to creepy, you could even sit and count the group size of people walking past, are people mainly out alone or walking in large groups? Again, it will depend on your garden as a quiet cul de sac won’t work for passing traffic.

This is not an exhaustive list of ideas when it comes to doing maths in the garden, so take a moment to think of your own activities and what would work well with your classes. Try and give your pupils the reasons behind doing maths outside, so that they don’t just think that they are doing outdoor maths for the sake of it.

- Being outdoors can boost mental wellbeing.
- Doing practical maths activities can help reinforce abstract concepts
- A lot of ‘everyday’ maths they will need as an adult will be practical – measuring/estimating
- Maths outdoors can be fun (maths and fun – yes those words can go together!)
- It is summertime so why not do maths outside – make the most of it!