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Learning Maths Outside the Classroom

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 28 April 2008 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 16 January 2015 by ncetm_administrator


Learning Maths Outside the Classroom

In November 2006 the DCSF published its manifesto 'Learning Outside the Classroom'. The NCETM actively promotes the learning of mathematics outside the classroom, this part of our web portal features projects that demonstrate good practice from many parts of the country. We hope you will find these projects inspiring, and be encouraged to share your ideas and projects.

The 'Learning Outside the Classroom' manifesto leads with the statement, “We believe that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances.” Such experiences “help us to make sense of the world around us by making links between feelings and learning. They stay with us into adulthood and affect our behaviour, lifestyle and work. They influence our values and the decisions we make. They allow us to transfer learning experienced outside to the classroom and vice versa”.

Getting out of the classroom facilitates authentic or experiential learning (the engagement of learners with the world as they actually experience it) and gives better access to the main pathways to learning (Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic). Pupils not only experience mathematics in concrete and novel settings, but can be liberated from the sometimes restrictive expectations of the classroom. As a result, we can expect to find the following benefits:

  • higher levels of motivation
  • almost limitless resources
  • an opportunity to see maths as cross-curricular
  • greater curiosity leading to more effective exploration
  • creative ideas driving investigations
  • meaningful application of problem solving strategies and thinking skills
  • a heightened sense of purpose and relevance
  • the all important bridge between theory and reality
  • greater independence and an improved attitude to learning
  • greater enjoyment and achievement (one of the five Every Child Matters outcomes)
  • a realisation that our environment offers opportunities for learning and enjoyment

Learning mathematics outside the classroom is not enrichment, it is at the core of empowering an individual’s understanding of the subject.

Ofsted Report: Learning Outside the Classroom
An Ofsted report (02/10/08) reveals that pupils' participation and achievement can benefit significantly from getting involved with activities outside the classroom — but not all schools and colleges are reaping the full benefits because some do not incorporate many off-site experiences into the curriculum.

Learning outside the classroom: how far should you go? is the latest report from the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted). In the sample of schools visited, it found that well-planned activities not only enhance pupils' learning, but can also re-engage those who are hard to motivate.
 Click here to read or download the full report. 
Professional Development Modules
  • Primary - this professional development module for primary is designed to help explore the possibilities of facilitating mathematics outside.
  • Secondary - this professional development module for secondary is designed to help explore the possibilities of facilitating mathematics outside.
  • Primary & Secondary - this professional development module for primary and secondary is designed to follow on from the work begun in module 1.
  • For everyone involved in mathematics education - this professional development module is designed to help explore the possibilities of facilitating mathematics outside.


 Contact us - share your ideas and projects

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07 February 2018 10:07
How closely does this link with the new curriculum?
By aingram
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18 May 2015 11:42
A lesson we had recently was the challenge to find the oldest tree on our grounds. The children had to measure 1m from the ground and then find the circumference of the chosen tree. After which they divided, (using a calculator), the circumference by 2.5cm. This gave them an approximate age. We rounded the number to the nearest whole number. Everyone had a great time and discussion went on to what might have been happening in the world when the tree started growing. Our oldest tree was 243 years old.
By abothwell
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04 July 2013 08:10
As a geography specialist teacher in primary I am delighted to see here so may references to the outdoors and maths. If teachers aren't clear about cross curricular learning here are some great examples of how it works. Thanks for sharing these practical ideas.
By TrishaW
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25 October 2011 15:21
Tessa -

Have you thought of posting about this in one of the online communities - perhaps the Primary Forum (https://www.ncetm.org.uk/community/1210) or Maths Cafe (https://www.ncetm.org.uk/community/141)?
25 October 2011 15:13
Not sure if this is too late but https://www.ncetm.org.uk/resources/9268 includes a host of benefits for using outside learning within mathematics. I am also a student teacher carrying out research for my independent project that discusses the effectiveness of outdoor mathematics learning in Key Stage 1 so would be very grateful of any other suggested literature
By tessajames
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16 August 2011 09:38
Does anyone have any recent literature that discusses the benefits or not of learning mathematics outside the classroom that I can share with some student teachers?
By PaulaS

I found this article in our "Research Gateway".

Any good?
By petegriffin
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28 June 2010 17:45
Does anyone have any recent literature that discusses the benefits or not of learning mathematics outside the classroom that I can share with some student teachers?
By PaulaS
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05 December 2008 11:38
Thanks Petegriffin! The learners will never forget these activities because the learning is experiencial. Their motivation must have been high all through. I will try out some of them especially the one on paving and fencing can be good for tessellation of shapes.
By nenye
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05 December 2008 10:11
On December 1st 2008,Bournemouth LA held a conference on Learning Outside the Classroom. During the day there were workshops run by the NCETM regional coordinator for the SW and in one, the participants explored the environment and devised some rich mathematical questions and activities. These are listed below and might provide some useful ideas to support you in developing some activities of your own.
Many thanks to the Bournemouth teachers who thought up these ideas.

• Look at the various leaves that you find outside. Find the biggest; find the smallest by finding the area of different leaves.
• Look for different patterns in the structure of paving, fencing, etc. Why do you think these particular shapes have been chosen? Which is the best for the purpose for which they are used?
• Look at some of the trees outside – are some trees wider than they are high?
• Use “Google Earth” to find a plan of an area you have explored outside. Relate actual measurements you have made to measurements on the Google map. What scale is being used for different magnifications?
• Become aware of the shadows that you are casting. How much bigger is your shadow that you? What about for other people and for other objects?
• Hide an object in your grounds and construct a “treasure map” with instructions to find the object.
• Are there any interesting shaped buildings in your grounds? Can you make a scale model of it back in the classroom?
• Design a garden in a certain area of our grounds. How many bulbs will be needed?
• How high are the trees in our grounds? If we wanted to fell a particular tree, would it be safe to do this or could it fall and hit a building or any other objects?
• How long would it take to run across the field?, or around the edge?, or across the diagonal?, etc. How long would it take to hop?, skip?, etc.
• How many different sorts of patterns can you find (e.g. fencing, roofing, paving, etc.)? Which is the strongest structure? Which is the most cost effective?
• Look at some of the trees. Are there some that I can hug (i.e. get my arms completely around and hold hands)? Can taller people hug bigger trees?
• Where could we site a bench? What factors would we need to take into consideration?
By petegriffin
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05 September 2008 10:40
I agree with your view . Experiencing learning of maths outside the classroom gives the learner the opportunity to establish a link between school/college learning and community life. It maintains their interests and increases achievements. eg. measuring paths in the school environment and working out the area, using deposit slips from banks and money (not real !) to teach multiplication of numbers etc. I have used the deposit slips and the students enjoyed it. Most of them have never seen it before.
By nenye
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