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7 ways to take the KS1 maths curriculum outdoors

Take your maths teaching into the great outdoors in KS1 with these activities and inspiration from Jenny Wood, Co-founder of Alfresco Learning!

Posted on Friday 20th January 2023

The benefits of taking learning outside have been well documented recently: boosting children’s physical activity levels, giving children greater academic progress, and promoting positive wellbeing to name just a few. It really is one of those things that once you’ve done it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing it all along!

But, when getting started, it can be difficult to know what to actually do outdoors with your children, especially when taking the curriculum outside.

Maths can be a great subject to begin with as it’s one of the subjects that you’ll teach most! Meaning you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try weaving the outdoors into your everyday teaching cycle, while also giving you a chance to gain your confidence with taking your class outside too.

When taking maths outside, some things to always think to yourself are:

  • How can I get the children physically active?
  • Is there an opportunity to create real life links with the outdoor space?
  • Can the working be made large-scale?

In this blog post, we will share outdoor inspiration for each area of the maths curriculum that can be used in either Year 1 or Year 2.

Before exploring any of these activities try starting off your outdoor maths lessons with a quick warm up counting game that’s active and utilises the space you have available. That way children are more likely to be focused and engaged for your main session!


Comparing numbers

When children are comparing numbers, often the vocabulary of ‘more than’ and ‘less than’ comes more easily than using the correct mathematical symbols.

Use this activity to help them visualise what the symbols mean so they can remember which way round they go…without a crocodile in sight!

Maths Outdoors

  • Start with two 1-digit numbers.
  • Ask children to use the same natural resource (of similar sizing) to create the two numbers side by side, in a vertical line.
  • They then place large sticks so that they touch the top and bottom of both numbers.
  • The result will be the correct mathematical symbol for the comparison that they can associate with the vocabulary.

 Addition and subtraction

Stick bundles

Using concrete resources is vital for children to understand what is happening to numbers when adding and subtracting. But taking classroom resources like base 10 and counters outdoors is impractical and more than likely end up with you returning to class with nothing left! Using nature outdoors is a great alternative to this!

Maths Outdoors

  • Ask children to gather up lots of twigs from your outdoor space
  • They then need to create some bundles of ten using elastic bands, making sure to leave some as ones too!
  • Using chalk, they write out a calculation, then use their stick tens and ones to solve it.
  • Once they’ve completed one, have them move to another child’s calculation with their resources and repeat!

Multiplication and division


Take children on a walk around your outdoor space, telling them a maths story as you do so.

For example, ‘I can see 4 bird nests in the trees, and two eggs in each nest, how many bird eggs can I see?’.

This starts by giving children a great opportunity to discuss the purpose of multiplication and how they can represent it. Following this on with arrays outdoors is the perfect way for children to have partner discussions and work more practically to secure their understanding.

Multiplication Outdoors

  • Ask children to collect a big handful of a natural resource of their choice from your outdoor space (or from ones you’ve provided, such as in the photo).
  • Provide questions for children to answer – either hung up around your space or have children write down one question each and just move around them all.
  • Children then use their natural resources to create arrays on the floor to solve the problem.
  • To make this more challenging, ask children to use a certain number of resources and have them make as many different arrays as they can.


Natural shapes

When children are beginning to look at fractions of shape, it can help to work practically and on a large-scale for children to be able to see visually what’s going on. Taking this outside, opens up the opportunities for discussion, adds interest and ensures they can change and edit their ideas as they explore various shapes.

Fractions Outdoors

  • Give children some chalk or have them collect a handful of sticks.
  • They need to create a shape on the floor (you may choose to specify this).
  • Then they need to split it into equal parts, depending on the fraction you are working on.
  • You can then ask them to show a fraction of the shape shaded (using natural resources) or have them choose a fraction to shade then test a partner.


Outdoor Clocks

Time can be such a tricky concept for children to grasp and as we all know, it always takes lots of practice, with as many opportunities as possible! With this in mind, by taking time outdoors with chalk and sticks, children will be able to easily revisit their learning over playtime and lunch breaks (you might be surprised by how many will do this to show their friends what they’ve been doing in class!) to secure their understanding.

Maths - Time Outdoors

  • Have children start by drawing a circle in chalk.
  • Then ask them to number the ‘12,3,6,9’ on the clock face.
  • They need to then fill in the rest of the numbers.
  • Then collect two sticks to be the hour and minute hand (ensuring they are the correct length for each).
  • Either call out times or have some displayed in writing around the outdoor space for children to find and then create using their clock.
  • They could also challenge their partner to create a time on the clock for them to check.


Nature scavenger hunt

Ever find yourself printing out worksheets filled with random lines drawn on for children to measure with a ruler and stick in their books? I know I have! Measurement can often be quite a dry objective when taught indoors. Take it outside and children are opened up to a whole world of measuring opportunities! From measuring natural items, to the school grounds/buildings, and even each other..there is so much fun to be had outdoors, making it a memorable learning experience for them.

Maths - Measurement Outdoors 

  • Create scavenger hunt lists for children using measurements they are working on. This may include using standard units or non-standard units and comparisons.
  • Have children go on a hunt around your outdoor area to try and find something to match each statement.
  • Ensure they have access to rulers/tape measures to complete the hunt accurately.


Building shapes

Constructing shapes with natural items is not only a great way to cover properties of shapes, but also a fantastic opportunity for children to practise their fine motor skills – something which can sometimes be overlooked once they reach KS1. I always found that counting vertices could be quite tricky for some children to keep track of. By using something physical to represent them, it makes it easier for them to count.

Maths- Shape Outdoors

  • Have some sticks (children could collect these in your own space) and clay or pipe cleaners available for children to use.
  • Ask children to create 3D shapes using the sticks as edges and clay/pipe cleaners as vertices. If they struggle to see the faces of the shape, ask them to use paper to lay over them to visualise it more clearly.
  • Children can create a range of shapes and use them to explore properties.
  • You could also add more challenge by giving them a certain amount of sticks and clay/pipe cleaners to see which shape they can make.


If you love this style of activity for taking maths outdoors then please come and follow us over on Instagram.

We share new activity ideas regularly across the curriculum and primary age range!

With many thanks to Jenny Wood for sharing this blog with us.

Jenny Wood, Co-Founder of Alfresco Learning – an outdoor learning company dedicated to combining the National Curriculum with nature to create an inclusive learning approach and provide memorable learning experiences for all children. Through staff training & an online planning hub, we aim to help primary teachers unlock their own potential in taking their everyday lessons outdoors.

Jenny Wood