We have been working with a primary school in Wigan at our Rose Bridge High Forest School for a few weeks and our topic has been woodland maths!

Our first challenge was to measure and cut sticks to the same length so we had 12 long and 12 short sticks. The children then had to make a picture out of the sticks to include as many different shapes as they could. Two of the groups chose to do houses and one made a marvelous robot! The main aim of this was to get the children thinking creatively about shapes, how to do this with limited resources and of course work as team to share ideas. They then got to add natural decorations to their pictures like leaves and mosses.

Maths can be a hard topic to motivate children to be interested in but we thought we would give woodland maths ago as there are so many ways maths and nature come together.

This week I thought I would challenge the children further by getting them to take a look at the trees in the woods. Our first challenge was to find the oldest tree in the woods! They had some great ideas on how to do this, such as counting growth rings. We developed this idea further as we didn’t want to saw down any trees. so we decided if the trees grow every year the tree with the thickest trunk would be the oldest. I showed the children a quick and easy way of measuring the trunk of the tree and working out the age from that. What they did was to work in teams, find a tree, then gather around the tree and put their hands around the tree – fingers pointing up. We then counted how many children fingers went round the tree as average tree growth is about 2.5cm a year about the same as a finger thickness. The oldest tree we found was 32.5 years old!

We then had to find the tallest tree in the woods. The children did decide that the thinnest tree in the woods would be the tallest so we tested this idea too. To measure the height of the trees the children suggested climbing to the tops of the trees and throwing a tape measure down. I showed them a different way as our trees were mostly very tall Ash trees not great for climbing! We measured the height by choosing a tree and standing at the base of the tree, we then walked forward in a straight line and kept stopping to look back through our legs until we saw the top of the tree we were measuring. The other children in the group armed with a handy meter stick – that we had measured out previously, then measured the distance between the tree and the person who had looked through their legs. The tallest tree we found in the woods was 16 meters tall and was one of the thickest too not the thinnest as they thought.

The maths involved may not be completely accurate and we were just estimating the age and height but the interesting part was how engaged and interested all the children were at having a go at finding out more about the trees in the woods and having a go at woodland maths.

This is definitely an activity we will be trying again in the woods.