Using Math in Nature: Activities for Kids

Math in nature activities for kids

Summer offers endless opportunities for your child to build nature smarts. There’s gardening, swimming, biking, and other outdoor activities to enjoy.

While it’s good for kids to spend time outdoors, it’s also important for them to keep their academic skills sharp over the summer. It’s even better when you can combine summer fun and learning!

It’s time for you and your child to explore math in nature.

Finding Math in Nature

At first glance, math class and the backyard seem like two different worlds. But the two are actually very connected and math is all around us. In fact, math was developed to describe patterns in nature!

Here are some familiar math concepts with real examples in nature. There are also simple math-in-nature activities for you and your child to try.

Symmetry

Definition: When one half of an object is the mirror image of the other half.

Examples: Butterfly wings, flowers.

Activities: Make a list of 25 things in nature that have symmetry. Go outside to search for examples, if needed! You can also do this Leaf Symmetry Craft to get you started.

Spheres

Definition: A perfectly round, three-dimensional object.

Examples: Earth, sun, an orange.

Activity: Find an example of a sphere in nature and one that’s manmade. What’s different about them?

Fibonacci Spirals

Definition: A series of squares with lengths that match the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. It forms a spiral when you draw a line through the diagonals of each square.

Example: The inside of a seashell.

Activity: The Fibonacci sequence begins with 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 … Can you figure out the pattern? Watch the video below to help your child find Fibonacci numbers in the fruits and vegetables you just brought home from the market.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahXIMUkSXX0

Measurement

Definition: A system of numbers used to indicate the size, quantity, length, or rate of something.

Activity: Create a rectangular garden plot and measure its size. Then, calculate the area of your plot.

Pi

Definition: The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, which is a mathematical constant (π) that approximately equals 3.14.

Activity: Find something circular in your yard or in the park. Wrap a piece of string around the object and measure the length of the string to determine the circumference. Then measure the object’s diameter, which is from one edge to another. Divide the circumference by the diameter. What answer do you get?

Meteorology

Definition: Meteorologists use scientific principles to explain, understand, observe, and forecast the weather.

Example: Predicting the distance of a severe thunderstorm.

Activity: You can determine the approximate distance of a storm in miles. As soon as you see the lightning strike, you begin counting (one, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand, etc.). Stop counting when you hear the sound of the thunder. Then divide that number by 5. For example, you see lighting and begin counting. After counting to 10, you hear the thunder. Divide 10 by 5 and you know that the storm is approximately 2 miles away.

Geometry

Definition: The study of shapes and their properties.

Activity: Spiders know how to design webs when they are born, and each species of spider spins a unique web design. In this activity, you can learn to identify the geometrical parts of a web’s design. To learn the different parts, check out this step-by-step animation of a spider spinning a web(opens in a new tab). The next time you see a real spiderweb, can you identify the bridge thread? The radius threads?

What are some other ways you can use math in nature?

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