Children learn best in relaxed situations, such as playing outdoor games. Parents and teachers who want to reinforce sharing as well as math skills can turn the backyard or playground into an outdoor math game lab for learning!
Too often, there is little room in the primary curriculum for teaching about money. Yet children love learning about spending and saving, which requires understanding base 10 ideas, such as 10 pennies equaling one dime and 100 pennies having the same buying power as one paper dollar.
Two Outdoor Math Games for Base 10 Skills
Here are two outdoor math games that help children learn about sharing, cooperation, the value of different coins, and the base 10 system.
Math Game: Treasure Hunt
- Plastic or real coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters)
- Plastic eggs
- Clipboards, paper, and pencils
This is a good game to play after a discussion of coin values, such as:
- How many pennies are in a nickel
- How many pennies or nickels are in a dime, and;
- How many dimes are in a dollar
Place a combination of coins in plastic eggs to hide outdoors. It may be better to limit the coins to pennies, nickels, and dimes for early primary students. Tell children to stop searching once they think they have accumulated a set amount (10 cents, 25 cents, 1 dollar) or when you blow the whistle.
After the hunt, have kids record their totals (outdoors, you’ll need clipboards). Then ask if anyone has the goal amount. If a student has 7 cents and the goal is 10, ask the group how many more pennies the student will need to make 10 cents. Then ask for volunteers who have more than enough to share funds. Have students add up the final sum to see if the recipient now has the right amount or too much.
Math Game: Mother-May-I Money
Using chalk, mark off a few long rectangles of equal length on the blacktop and divide them into 10 squares about 18 inches long. Each square is worth 1 penny (or 10 cents, 1 dollar, 10 dollars, or 100 dollars).
Participants line up at a zero mark, and Mother stands beyond the end of the squares to command the players one by one to move by telling them, for example, to step forward “three pennies,” “20 cents,” or “4 dollars.” As the game continues, Mother can also tell a student to step back by a specific amount.
Encourage players to share the money they are earning by going back a step so someone else can move forward. Later, Mother may decide to reward a player who shares with an extra turn.
The game ends when a player reaches the goal amount (10 cents, 1 dollar, etc.) and becomes the new Mother.
More Outdoor Activities and Ideas
Outdoor games are fun! Learning can be fun as well by adapting lessons into games that may require only a few simple materials. If you’re looking for more educational outdoor games and learning activities, be sure to stop by our Outdoor Educational Activities page.