I'm super excited about today's activity!
Why? It's a fun way to get the kids outside PLUS there's some math involved AND there's also an element of surprise!
So the kids don't even notice the math & learning that's involved ;)
And it's super easy to do in your own yard or neighborhood.
Today we're going to go on a Graphing Adventure -- it's just like a treasure hunt but the kids will be learning to read a plot graph and scouting out the 'secret' locations!
I know that it can be challenging for some kids to understand that math can be fun (I have a kid like that at home too!) so this is a great activity to inspire them to have a good time with numbers. It's also a perfect hands-on activity that highlights how math can easily be applied to every day life.
Fun Math for Kids: Exploring Coordinate Graphs
The goal with this activity is to introduce kids to a coordiante graph or plot graph.
Remember way back in school when we would have to read points on the X,Y axis lines -- yep, this is it!
I totally promise this will be so much more fun than math class ;)
Quick math refresher: The X axis is the horizontal and the Y axis is the vertical -- in a plot point, X always some before Y. Both X and Y cross at (0,0) on your graph.
Numbers to the right and top of (0,0) have positive values -- numbers to the left and below (0,0) have negative values.
Easy math knowledge for kids to acquire so they can impress their teacher this year ;)
The first thing you'll need is a piece of graph paper -- you can print off a free sheet of graphing paper here! (in the drop down menu, choose 'Cartisian Graph Paper' and for the measuring units, be sure it says 'inches).
ps. Kids always love to see graph paper and may ask you to print off a few pieces so they can use it for other drawings and projects.
Now you can either draw a map of your yard, neighborhood or park -- OR create and label your X and Y axis lines.
It's up to you as to which you'd like to do first.
I did a quick map of our local park as a surprise adventure for my daughter since we were working on plot graphs this week. I drew on the axis lines first and then used colored pencils to create the map over the top of the graph.
As you can see on our map, colors will really a lot to this activity! I used blue for the pond, green for large trees, purple for playground equipment and brown for the walking path & any wood structures -- for example, the picnic shelter is at point (0,0) for us.
If your kids want to draw their own map then let them do that first. Colored pencils or markers will work best for this project. You can just use a Sharpie to draw the plot graph over the top of any map they create.
And if the kids design their own graphing map, you can also explain how math applies to other areas such as geography, art, etc.
Next up, writing out your points!
I chose places around the park that we would visit. For each spot, I wrote the (X,Y) coordinate on a sticky note. We had 6 different spots that she needed to locate on the map in order to know things we would do at the park.
Once you draw the map and axis lines, you can easily see the various points on your graph.
For us (5,0) is the spot where we always feed the fish at the pond. The picnic shelter is at point (0,0) on our graph.
You can use whole numbers for younger kids so they can get acquainted with reading the graph. Older kids should be able to understand decimals on the graph -- for example, locate point (4, 2.5).
A quick stop to feed the fish and have some fun!
After she located each spot, I would give her the next sticky note with another set of coordinates so she could find it on the map and knew where we would head next.
If you're super sneaky, you can place the sticky notes at each spot and have your child find them when they get to that point.
Next stop -- the 'jumping bars' as we call them since my kids have always had to jump up to get to the bars ;)
One of the things I love about this activity is it can be adjusted for the age of your child.
If you have a younger child (preschool to 2nd grade), just teaching them about the X and Y axis on a coodinate graph will help to expand their math skills.
Older kids can learn how to locate the points that you give them on the graph as you head out on your adventure.
If you have tweens & teens, let them set the points for the graph. Don't give them any sticky notes, instead tell them to find the points on the graph for the various places you might visit.
We had a lot of fun on our math adventure and got in some great graph reading practice! If you're interested in a few books that you can read about plot graphs, try one of these:
A Fly on the Ceiling is a funny look into the story of how mathmatician Rene Descartes invented the coordinate plane. Great introduction to coordinate graphs!
If you have a non-math fan, try books from this series! Sir Cumference and the Viking's Map is a great story showing how coodinate graphs and plot points can take people on a treasure hunt! This was the book we used with our graphing activity.
And for a more practical way to practice coordinate points, kids will enjoy creating their own drawings with the guides in Coordinate Graphing Hidden Pictures -- great for extra activities in a math classroom!
MORE FUN MATH ACTIVITES
Marvelous Math Books for Kids (a great idea for kids who love to read but hate math ;)