Learning Math in the Garden

Student Brent Snyder is one of the unsuspecting students learning math while gardening. Don’t tell them it’s a math garden!

In January, we started our first after-school gardening program at Porter Gaud School. The elementary school kids knew they were going to have fun in the dirt, but what they didn’t know was they were participating in a program designed to improve number sense. You’ve heard of common sense? Number sense is similar. An intuitive feel for numbers and numerical relationships, number sense develops when children solve math problems for themselves. And leaving elementary school with a good sense of numbers is critical for higher learning in math and science.

Ask any math teacher, and she’ll tell you that measuring, estimating and using math in the real world are all ways to acquire good number sense.In the garden, we measure soil temperature, count seeds and measure plant height. We read seed packets and discuss germination time, marking days on a calendar. We estimate planting depth and spacing with finger joints and hand spans. Soon, we’ll be weighing our harvest. And all the while, the children’s ability to use and understand numbers improves. But don’t tell the kids; they think they’re just having fun!

Think you have good number sense? Test yourself! If your restaurant bill is $49, how much is your 15% tip? About how many marbles can you hold in your hand? How long does it take you to drive 100 miles?

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