Skip to main content


Hunting for numbers outdoors

12 Aug 2022

By Maurice Tse-Leon, Digital Engagement Manager 

Sometimes as a parent I feel like I should have more ideas to keep my kids interested in their surroundings when we're out and about. 

Here are a few tips from National Numeracy that I've found useful, fun and secretly educational. They also don't require any equipment at all!


Obviously the games that work depend on the age of your children. Mine are still very young, but there are activities up to age 13 on the Family Maths Toolkit

Asking your child to give you directions to a local landmark or an important place can be fun if you have time to take the occasional detour. Get them to work out how long each stage of the journey takes. If you're in the car, their directions to get home can add a bit of jeopardy and suspense to the journey!

Explore the local area. Ask your child to guess how many buildings are on the street, how far it is to the nearest river, or how many dogs and cats live in your town. Ask for the reasons behind their answers. Estimation is a vital part of numeracy; I've discovered that my children have a long way to go before their guesses come close to reality.

Count things. For example – how many lampposts are on our street? How many houses have a red door? How many dogs can you count in a day? One version that we play is the 'bin game': five points for every bin you see. It's silly but it gets competitive and you have to be strict about who sees a bin first!

Look for numbers on doors, buses, cars, signs, at the shops – anywhere! Remember to talk about what the numbers mean when you see them.

Talk about time. How long does it take to walk to the shop, or to school? I find it mind-blowing how differently children seem to perceive time. Even if they're getting it wildly wrong, thinking about distance and time is all good numeracy.  

I've seen a few other people finding numbers outdoors with #MathsOnHoliday on Twitter, but it's mostly pretty advanced stuff compared to what I'm looking for.

More than anything, what I've learnt while working at National Numeracy is to highlight numeracy when it crops up, to notice it and make it something that exists everywhere (even if it triggers the odd eye-roll). Hopefully, this makes maths a bit less abstract when it comes to school too. 

For more quick ideas like this for ages 3-13, try our activity pages.

For access to lots of great downloadable resources, Family Maths Toolkit is the place to go. 

Try Family Maths Toolkit

Other ideas

These videos show some other ways you can take numeracy outdoors: