Today was the day of my outdoor maths challenge. I had it all set up carefully with each challenge carefully written up and all the equipment ready. I had a back up plan in case it rained but the sun was shining brightly so everything was looking good. I explained to the children what they were going to do and outlined each of the challenges to them. Then the heavens opened and it began to pour with rain!
I put the back up plan into operation and the children settled down to work. The shower stopped and so we finally all went outside.
The children were excited about doing something different but they were mainly on task. The task choices were interesting. Overwhelmingly they chose to measure trees and find the differences. Only 6 children opted for one of the other 5 tasks.
The lesson was a qualified success I think. Some of the children worked really well and did some useful maths. Some others didn’t really focus on what they were doing and didn’t really complete any of the challenges successfully.
Part of the problem might have been that my explanations weren’t clear. I tried to set the task out as clearly as possible but the explanations were misunderstood by quite a few children. A major problem with the children being scattered around a large area is that it is difficult to intervene and help each group so misconceptions were hard to address until they came to show me their work.
I wanted it to be as much of a free choice as possible but maybe I needed to have fewer options for them to choose from? There certainly needed to be more direct teaching input about a couple of the tasks before we started them. Finding the total surface of a brick stumped everyone and yet we have covered area several times. Taking it out into a different context seemed to make it seem like a different idea altogether.
A good idea I think and one that I want to pursue. Maybe I tried to do too much at one time? Giving the children lots of choices and using the outdoor environment could have been one distraction too many.
I certainly want to do more work on both of these things but probably not at the same time.