Summer storms may drive your family inside, but when the clouds clear, don’t be shy about heading back out. Where there’s mud, there’s also math! Don’t believe us? Check out these fun muddy activities and see how they go hand-in-hand with messy math.
Start out with 4 plastic containers. Using old measuring cups, have the kids measure out 3 cups of mud into each container. Now add different amounts of water to each mud container. Try a 1/2 cup in one, followed by 1 cup, 1 1/2 cups and 2 cups in the others. Mix them all well and observe the mud. How are the mixtures the same? How are they different? Now take your muddy mixtures to the next math level with these ideas!
You can shape mud pies with aluminum pie tins, plastic measuring cups, or discarded plastic lids from pints of ice cream. They all make great pie molds. We can’t talk about pies, even the muddy kind, without thinking about pi! Explain that the circumference, or distance around the circle, is so much longer its diameter, or width of the circle. No matter the size of the circle, the circumference is roughly 3.14 times longer than a circle’s diameter!
Which bucket’s muddy mess will make the best paint, the one with the least amount of water or the most? Discuss the impact of a higher ratio of dirt to water (more dirt, less water) and vice versa. Mud painting presents a fun opportunity to use up cardboard or styrofoam scraps because they make great canvases for mud paint!
Pour a small amount of your muddy mixture into a wide, shallow container, such as an aluminum pie tin. Allow it to dry completely. As the water evaporates from the mud, it causes the mud to shrink and separate, leaving behind lots of cracks on the surface. Take a few minutes to study these cracks with the kids. Do you notice any patterns? It turns out, symmetry is everywhere – even in mud! You can see polygons made up of straight lines creating paths in the dry surface. If mud that has been dried in the sun, you can often see curves that intersect at right angles. These symmetrical formations can also be found in lava!
No matter how you mix up your mud or play with it, you can count on having a messy, but math-magical good time!
See who (or what) else likes to play in the mud in this messy Bedtime Math problem.
Photo credit Angie Six