In the fall, 5th graders were asked to engage in a Math Trail around campus. The teachers divided the class into three groups, and each group had to answer a math problem. One group had to solve how many trees once occupied their campsite, another group was asked to calculate the number of paper it would take to cover all of Walbrook, and the last group was asked to calculate the number of apple trees that could be planted on the lacrosse field. Each group was asked to document their process and create an iMovie of their approach to finding the answer.
Research has shown students' perception of math starts to change around Middle School. By taking 5th graders outside—taking them away from pencils and workbooks—our teachers are helping students to see math as it applies to everyday life and gain a new appreciation for it. By being outside, students are now forced to think about their math approach, rather than the final answer. By working with other classmates, they must learn to communicate mathematical concepts, giving them an opportunity to enhance their conceptual understanding and share with others.
One of our fifth grade teachers noted, "I want my students to have a love of math (no matter how small that "love" may be) before I send them off to Middle School. By being outside and seeing Math all around them, it gives them a new appreciation for the subject. Math isn't always about the final answer, but how one approaches a problem and shows their thinking. I want them to see Math as a creative outlet, rather than something that hones them down to paper and pencil.