Nature Based Math

Math is a great subject to take outside. Nature based math doesn’t have to be complicated. Time spent outdoors enhances the problem-solving skills and creativity of our kids! Imagine a time of hiking outdoors to explore the mathematical concepts we use.

kids outside with Nature Based Math text overlay

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Nature Based Math

Nature-based mathematics is the use of natural elements for teaching mathematical concepts, mathematical concepts that can be observed in nature, or the application of math to address problems in nature. It often occurs by using acorns or doing math in the sand on the beach as counters.

These math activities are naturally conducive to getting your child to enjoy math-based activities while spending some time outside. Right here are a couple more activities to try.

Nature based learning has a lot of benefits for children and these can become very important as you begin to explore mathematical concepts with your children. 

Ideas for Nature Based Math

When it comes to teaching math, there is no one size fits all approach. However, one approach that can be beneficial for many students is nature based math.

Nature based math is a hands-on approach that uses the natural world as a way to teach mathematical concepts. This approach can be used with students of all ages and can be adapted to fit the needs of any classroom.

Collect Small Items

The easiest way to start incorporating nature in your math is to start counting things outside. Rocks work well, acorns, sticks, or leaves are all great choices. You can use them to learn to count or group them for multiplication and division.

Patterns in Nature

There are observable patterns in nature and those are worth observing. 

  • the rings on a cut-down tree
  • the symmetry of leaves and flower petals

You can also use natural materials to create patterns. These patterns can be an engaging activity for young and old students. 

Get Messy

Challenge your child to collect 20 items and put them in a bowl on the counters inside your room. Write some numbers on some of the rocks if you would like, or even practice collecting items. There really are endless options for what you can use them for.


Natural objects often have great geographic insight because of their shapes. The shape of circles is the most common sort of natural shape as a result of their volume, surface area, and mass.

picture of small rocks

Why Include Math in Nature Based Learning?

In nature-based learning settings, math is often an afterthought. But math is a critical part of nature-based learning, and there are many good reasons to include it in your program.

Problem Solving

Spending time outside gives children the chance to take risks and get immediate feedback. 

Can I climb this tree? Maybe. Can I lift this rock? Maybe. Will this work? Yes. Can I stack these rocks to make my own inukshuk? Why not?

This increases creativity which is necessary for math. Children need to be able to approach a math problem knowing that there are several ways to solve it. And without a calculator.

make questions outside with Nature Based Math text overlay

Do A Project

Choosing a project that involves math and nature is a great way for your child to make connections. 

You may choose to build that picnic table in your yard, requiring a study of the natural landscape and math, or study climate change and learn the troubling data that is driving change. 

The best projects stem from the observation of a problem. So if your child is troubled by the amount of trash on the beach, work together to see what solutions you may be able to apply to math. 

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