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Outdoor Learning – The first instalment!
March 5, 2012

As the weather starts to improve there’s nothing quite like breaking free from the confines of your classroom and letting your students loose outside! Everyday this week I will be blogging about an idea to get your students up and out of the classroom…

Trigonometry in real life

This lesson has always gone down really well with my students. You need to have studied using trig for calculating missing sides and angles in right-angled triangles. I would split this into two 50 minute sessions (or some equivalent of this!) this is the Powerpoint I have used in the past – you could update it with pictures from around your school!

Lesson 1:

Present students with a question like ‘how could we work out the height of the school?’ (slide 2) and get them to brainstorm ideas. If you need to then show them slide 3 and guide them through the process of using trig. Then ask them how they might measure the length of the base and the angle. The rest of the lesson can be spent making the clinometers, some really clear instructions on a printable worksheet are available here. And designing their data collection table. You will need some trundle wheels or long tape-measures (raid the PE department!)

Lesson 2:

Group students into threes and off they go! You would probably want to place yourself somewhere central so you can keep an eye on them and you are available for help! In my experience it is also worth giving each group a little ticket you have signed explaining that they are meant to be out of class.

Back in the classroom after half an hour or so you can reveal the heights and get students to calculate the difference between their answers and yours, then they can calculate the average which you can compare to pick a winner. In with this you can discuss the accuracy of their results and even other applications.

We hope you enjoy these ideas! Get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our NumberLoving Store.

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Sharon Derbyshire




  1. Sharon Derbyshire

    I remember that day running around with our camera, tape measure and hand made clinometer!
    The pupils had just as much fun too! Great post Laura!

  2. Juliet@CreativeSTAR

    It’s really interesting to see children and young people actually try and work out the heights of buildings and other objects through their own ideas. I once had a 7yr old tell me that if she waited until the right time of the day, when her own shadow was as long as she was tall, then perhaps this would work for measuring the height of her school too.

    I have a number of blog posts about taking maths outside which might be of interest, even through I work with the primary and early years sectors. This is the link to my blog index – scroll down and you’ll come to the maths section



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