A rainy-day opportunity to collect weather data is a great opportunity to grow students' mathematical mindsets. Weather is a familiar context for students of all ages that also offers a chance to enjoy the beauty and complexity of mathematics. Use rainy weather as an opportunity to explore and invite your students to ask questions and discover more about the world through patterns and numbers. Opportunities like this allow students to make connections between math and their world.
Use rainy weather as an opportunity to explore and invite your students to ask questions and discover more about the world through patterns and numbers.
How much did it rain? How can rain be measured?
Build a rain gauge and collect rainwater! While building a rain gauge, students will consider the shape of the container that will hold the rain. Then, the students will shift their focus to measurement by marking on the container a unit to measure the rainwater. Finally, as students collect and record data, they will develop a critical mathematical habit of mind, attending to precision, to determine how much rain has fallen in a given amount of time.
Download a Rain Gauge Lesson with everything you need to plan and implement a fun rainy-day activity!
What happens after it rains?
Brainstorm with your students the things they normally see when they go outside before it rains. Then, discuss whether this list would change after it rains. Create a tally table with different things they might find on a rainy-day scavenger hunt. Invite students to make predictions: What would they expect to find the most of? The least of? Shortly after the rain, go outside and collect data!
During this activity, students will practice setting up a data table, collecting data using tallies, and counting as they total each category. If you are looking for a little more challenge, turn the results into a graph for students to consider: What story does the graph tell you? What connections do you see between the table and the graph?
Finally, if your students still have a lot of energy, head back outside for some skip counting puddle jumping!
Is this weather normal?
Inspired and interested in a long-term weather project? Discuss with your students what they are most interested in learning about: rainfall, sunshine, clouds, or general weather patterns. This activity is a great exercise for practicing the statistical investigation cycle. Devise a plan to collect data for a longer amount of time such as a week, two weeks, or a month. First, pose a question about the weather. Then, set up the required data tables to collect the data. Use precision and as much consistency as possible while collecting data.
Once you reach the end of your experiment, analyze the data by creating graphs and other visuals. Finally, support students as they interpret the data: What patterns do you notice? What conclusions can be drawn? How does your data compare to the average annual weather in your area?
What are the chances it will rain today?
You can connect the weather to math even without weathering the storm. Invite students to consider questions about probability. Is rain expected in your area? How likely is it? Weather reporting relies on statistics and probability to analyze patterns. Based on these patterns, meteorologists are able to make predictions about what they expect might happen. Take the opportunity to do some research and explore the generative questions listed below. This can be a quick interpretation of a number that you see together on the news or a more involved research process during which students study patterns in weather data:
How long is it going to rain?
Telling time, sensing time, and being able to calculate the amount of time that has passed are core elementary math skills. Try tracking how long it has been raining. With spotty showers, students can determine the start and stop time and then calculate how long it rained in total. Alternatively, with an ongoing storm, the question can be turned around: How long do you think it has been raining? How long does a minute feel? An hour? Turn this into a fun game and have students guess how long a minute is. Use a timer and have them tell you when it has been a minute. See how close they can get to exactly 60 seconds!
How can we pass the time when it rains?
Weather a storm with some old-fashioned fun. Pull out some indoor activities that are also math games. Hunt around the classroom for math and engage students in card games and board games that utilize math or host an indoor recess math competition for interested students.
Any day can become a perfect day for math explorations when students can observe patterns, ask questions, and make meaning out of numbers. Turn your next rainy day into an awesome day for your elementary students to learn math!