Adding up to Fitness: Teaching Maths through Physical Education

It is a commonly held belief that mathematics is one of the hardest subjects at school. Even fully grown adults will quickly turn pale and shaky at the mention of algebra. But to give your child the best start for a healthy financial life, a basic understanding of mathematical concepts is vital. So how can you help them overcome the belief that maths is difficult and boring?

Adding up to Fitness: Teaching Maths through Physical Education - kids playing sports image

Get them up, get them moving, and encourage them to have fun.

Teaching maths through exercise may seem like a strange combination, but interdisciplinary learning has been encouraged for a while. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has published papers on the subject, pointing out that Physical Education teaches many of the same concepts as Mathematics does: dance uses the language of symmetry and shape, gymnastics teaches position and angles, and athletes learn to use data as they record their times and monitor progress. For many children, ‘learning by doing’ is by far the most fun and engaging way to learn. With this in mind, we’ve gathered together a selection of games and activities to try, either at home or in school.

Have fun, exercise their brain, and get fit all at once!

Bowling (Addition)

We’ve all been to bowling alleys where a computer adds up our scores, but improve your child’s addition by encouraging them to add up their own score. The advantage of bowling is that you can easily play at home in the garden. Even if you don’t have a bowling set, just fill empty drinks bottles with sand and use them as makeshift skittles.

River Walk (Symmetry)

Any stretch of water will do, but next time you’re near a lake or river, ask your children to examine the reflection and tell you how it relates to the land around it. Better yet, play games with your own reflections. Make a silly pose and see if your child can copy it just by looking at your reflection. Just be careful not to fall in!

Basketball (Percentages)

If you throw a ball ten times, and it goes through the hoop four times, what percentage is that? Ask these questions while playing any kind of scoring game (be it Basketball, Netball, or Football) and watch your child’s understanding of percentages rapidly increase. Better yet, expand the discussion to include fractions and decimals too.

Stick Line-up (Size and Length)

Gather together a group of children and ask them all to pick up one stick. Collect the sticks together, and ask the children to place them in order of size. Whilst this may sound simple, you should soon find that it brings up difficult questions: what if someone brings back a curved stick? Should you measure round the curve, or just go straight from one point to the other? Since many children love to collect sticks and stones, this can also be played with one person: encourage your avid collector to arrange their collection in size order, choosing their own criteria for the curvy anomalies. Be ready with a tape measure to resolve disagreements!

Darts (Mental Arithmetic)

To be a champion darts player your mental arithmetic has to be top notch. Teaching maths skills including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are all honed through darts practice, whilst the concept of percentages and averages can be added once kids become more confident. Magnetic darts boards are available for those who don’t feel comfortable with their children throwing sharp objects.

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