Backyard Math Adventure: A fun scavenger hunt for kids!

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Math is all around us, from shapes to objects of different sizes to patterns. Why not get outside and turn on our math brain?

Exploring with an outdoor math scavenger hunt makes math tangible and engaging while reinforcing math skills. By finding objects in nature in a fun game, you can make positive associations with math while teaching almost unlimited math lessons.

Ready to head outside and hunt? Let’s have some fun!

How to make the Backyard Math Adventure scavenger hunt experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you’ll need:

Before you start

If your child is younger, they may have trouble finding shapes in nature. Be sure to meet them where they’re at and help them through, if they need it.

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your child:

Step 1: Prepare a worksheet (or print FREE printable)

Before you step outside, you will want to make a simple worksheet for your child to gather all of their data. You can simply take a piece of paper and draw a few shapes that you think your child can find on your scavenger hunt, or you can print out this free printable and use it for your scavenger hunt.

It’s likely that the printable won’t cover all the shapes you will see outside (just look at the picture at the top of this post!). Feel free to add whatever shapes you find outside.

Step 2: Head outside!

Once you have your worksheet, gather what you need and head out to start looking!

Depending on their age, they may need some help getting started. It can be challenging to see shapes in nature when they’re accustomed to only seeing a perfectly drawn shape in a book or a piece of paper.

The shapes you find don’t have to be natural; the name of the game is identifying shapes in everyday objects outside.

Here are a few examples of shapes you can find in nature to get started:

  • Circles: tree rings, berries, center of flowers, pond ripples
  • Triangles: certain leaves, mountain peaks, shape of some pine trees
  • Squares/rectangles: certain tree barks, patterns on butterfly wings
  • Hexagons: honeycombs
  • Octagon: stop sign (remember: doesn’t always have to be natural!)

If you’re not able to find all shapes (like the hexagon), that’s okay! Depending on your child’s age, you might only find about half of the shapes in the activity.

The important takeaway from this experiment is being able to see shapes in everyday objects. If your child can do that with just circles, then that’s just fine.

Step 3 (optional): Reward yourself!

If you would like, you could have a reward for finding all of the shapes in the scavenger hunt!

After all, it is a game.

The STEM behind the Backyard Math Adventure scavenger hunt experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Makes math tangible and engaging
  • Reinforces math skills
  • Encourages problem-solving

How it works

This activity turns your backyard into a giant math playground!

You create a list with clues for your child to find objects based on math concepts like shapes, sizes, or patterns (for example, something rectangular like a brick).

As they explore, they practice counting and recognizing shapes in the real world. It’s a fun, active way to learn and reinforce math skills while enjoying the outdoors!

Makes math tangible and engaging

Stepping outside the classroom and looking for math in the real world makes the abstract concepts more concrete and relatable. It allows children to see how math is present everywhere, not just on worksheets.

It also allows children to play a fun game with math, which makes math more exciting! When you tie a game with math, it gets kids excited to learn math concepts like identifying shapes and noticing patterns.

Reinforces math skills

Searching for objects based on specific shapes, sizes, or quantities provides practical application of counting and shape recognition skills.

Playing this game with your child allows them to practice the lessons on shapes and patterns outside, which is a great reinforcement for those lessons.

Encourages problem-solving

Children need to use their critical thinking skills to identify objects outside that specifically match the shapes you talked to them about beforehand.

This is a great problem-solving activity! Chances are, the shapes that your child finds outside will not directly match the traditional shapes we learn. This gives them the chance to exercise their problem-solving skills by running through questions like:

  • What shape does this represent?
  • How is this different than the shape I know?
  • Can I still count this shape as a circle if it looks a little different?

More experiments like this one to try out with your child

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