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Outdoor Measuring Activities

My daughter loves to be outside, and now that it’s winter she wants to be outside in the snow all the time. I use outdoor measuring activities to combine math with play. I basically use the moves she does anyway and ask her to measure with measuring tape. We measure in English and Metric units.

  • How many hops from the back steps to the swings? Measure one hop: Centimeters & Inches
  • How many leaps from the swings to the shed? Measure one leap: Feet & centimeters
  • How many cartwheels from the shed back to the steps? Measure distance in yards & meters
  • How many skips down the driveway? Measure one skip: Centimeters & Inches
  • How far can you jump from the last step? Measure one jump: Feet & centimeters

We all use various measuring units in our everyday lives, and using them is the key to remembering what they are, how big they are, and what the conversion factors are. The second benefit of using measuring activities with my daughter in the backyard is that she can internalize the idea of the length of a yard or a meter. She will understand what inches are and how they are related to feet or yards.

Lately, I have become a huge fan of word problems. Many times when I think she understands a concept, I then go over the related word problems and sometimes discover she only understands parts of the concept. In the past, I would ask math question from a worksheet. If she got 70% or 80% correct I used to think that was OK. Now, I know that she has not quite grasped some key piece of the math concept. Now, I go over word problems with her and if she seems stuck, we stop and have a conversation about the problem. These are some measurement word problems:

Alice walked 400m to her best friend Mary’s house. Both girls walked 350m to the playground. When they finished playing, Mary walked back to her house, and Alice walked 300m back to her home.

  • How far did Mary walk in total?
  • How far is Alice’s house from the playground?
  • How far is Mary’s house from the playground?
  • How far did Alice walk in total?
  • How many more meters did Alice walk than Mary?

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