If there was one good thing to come out of the global pandemic, it was the growth of outdoor recreation as a way of life. Many families started hiking, and found it was a safe activity, and often a chance to socialize. One of the field trips classes have begun going on again are hikes, because the outdoor aspect of the activity makes it a good choice.
Math is always all around us, and new technology makes measuring distances so much easier. Everyone has a GPS in their pocket now, and apps help keep track of mileage, maps, distances, elevation, and pace. The apps available are incredible. There has never been such a great time for kids to really learn about distances with this hiking-app phenomenon.
Recently on a 4th grade field trip, I recorded our hike, and periodically showed students where we were on the map, and how far we had gone. They started to try to estimate when they had gone .1 of a mile, and check against the app I was using. I found this was pretty powerful, because they became more accurate each time they tried. The idea of distance became real.
Next time you are in the outdoors, try one of the apps out there. I use Strava, but there are many others. Share the maps and distances with your students, and think of all the ways this can compliment your other measurement lessons. Miles and Kilometers become much more real when experienced firsthand, and you won’t have to answer that dreaded question, “Are we there yet?” With the flash of a map, they will know and be able to predict how much longer the hike is.
Karen Wilson, Meroby Elementary School Math Coach