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How we use maths in Scouts Scotland

Posted by Liam Watson, Senior Instructor, Scout Adventures Lochgoilhead

Have you ever been orienteering? Out on a hill, or maybe a woodland, working with friends to follow a map and find those little markers hidden around a trail. Having great fun in the outdoors, staying just on the right side of not getting lost. Do you realise you were learning maths skills while you were doing it?

Scouts Scotland has been helping young people to achieve through outdoor adventures for more than 100 years. As a Senior Instructor at Scout Adventures Lochgoilhead, I’ve had the privilege of helping young people take part in outdoor learning for a number of years.

When I think back to my time in school and doing maths, sitting at a desk doing sums and algebra is what comes to mind, which for me was not always the most inspiring way to learn.

In my work at Scout Adventures Lochgoilhead, I know that the great advantage of learning outdoors and being involved with Scouts is that we can help young people to develop maths and problem solving skills without the focus specifically being on maths. Outdoor learning is also proven to improve mental and physical wellbeing as well as increase attainment.

In Scouts, we like to say that we have been doing Curriculum for Excellence for over 100 years, because many of our activities, both at our weekly meetings and at our centres, all link back to all of the outcomes of Curriculum for Excellence. There are so many ways that we can take maths outdoors and learn by doing.

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Learning about grids and coordinates using orienteering

Orienteering is a great activity with lots of applications within maths, and it’s really easy to use orienteering to look at a grid reference systems and how they’re used in a real life. Pupils can use chalk to draw a map in the playground and then draw a grid over the top. They can then move around the map using the grid.

Using Nature Walks to learn about symmetry

Going for a walk in nature can be great for mental health and wellbeing but you can also use this time to learn about symmetry and patterns. When we’re on our walks, we encourage young people to look for different 2D and 3D shapes, how many different ones can they find, what are their features? There will be plenty of 2D and 3D shapes around and young people can see how many different ones they can find and identify their features. As we move into the Autumn months, there will also be plenty of fallen leaves on the ground which offers a simple way to look for patterns and symmetry.

Maths is all around us. It’s the universal language and it’s everywhere in nature. In Scouts, we know that getting outside and learning by doing is one of the best possible ways to develop skills. It inspires a sense of wonder in young people that can lead to life-long passions.

It’s always worth thinking: is there a way I could teach this outside, or bring an element of outside into a maths lesson? If you haven’t done it before, start simple with one of my ideas above and build from there. Once you get into it and see the benefits, you’ll never look back.

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