Math Monday: Trampoline Math!

Around the time I started posting these Math Mondays, I started up a Creative Math Club for other creative, visual, right brain thinkers. Typically, elementary and middle school math is not considered all that creative, visual, or right brained. Thus, the struggle for so many kids who just give up in the midst of all the arithmetic and rules. The ironic twist is that, for the most part, the further you go in math, the more theoretical and mental/visual it gets. By the time you reach that point, though, most kids have weeded themselves out.

An interesting thing about Naturalist is that while she struggles doing computation, she can take any shape and deconstruct it in her head. She can take a cube, ‘unroll’ it, roll it back up again in a different formation, make it 2D, twist it around, and pop it back up into 3D. If you give her a deconstructed 2D shape, she can construct it in her head and tell you what 3D shape it will make. Somewhere in the higher level math world, there is a practical application for that. I never made it that far, though, so I don’t know.

Anyway, the goal of Creative Math Club is to take the higher level creativity and put it into elementary/middle school math. It’s tricky, but do-able.

This time, we all met up at my trampoline. Because when I say “math”, I want the association to be with something fun, and what’s more fun than a trampoline?! How about a trampoline and chalk?!


The kids played for a bit, we adults talked for a bit, and then I brought out some schematics of a circle (here and here) to the older group of kids. These were to be reproduced onto the trampoline, and they did a fabulous job. Once it was transfered, we played a game of Simon Says. (Note: I was prepared for this game to either fall flat with the young kids, or with the older kids, and so move on, but everyone ended up enjoying themselves with it.)

First, the basic stuff to get them accustomed to the circle and the game:

Simon says, jump on the circumference.
Simon says, put your elbow on the center.
Simon says, put a toe on the secant.
Simon says, run around a half circle.



Even if they didn’t know what the word meant I was talking about, they quickly got it, either by watching someone else or by looking at the diagram. The beauty of a game like this is that even the 4 and 5 year olds participated. By the end, they knew where to find the secant, or chord, or tangent. Game learning is all inclusive!

Then, once everyone was comfortable with the vocabulary, we got a little crazy.

Simon says, put a toe on the circumference and an elbow on a chord. (if a kid was too far away from something, then they hollered out and someone would draw one by them)

Simon says, everyone form one diameter across the circle (this took some teamwork)

Simon says, make a radius with your body. (this was cool, because each radius ended up dividing the circle into fractions of a circle)



Simon says, make a tangent with your body. (This was my favorite, because they unexpectedly formed a nonagon around the trampoline.)
Simon says, jump on the line segment with the two endpoints on the circumference. Note, at no time did I define ‘line segment’ or ‘endpoint’, but they all kind of looked around and found what fit…the chord…because visual kids can infer things easier than they can sit and listen to boring definitions.

As we moved around the trampoline, the chalk kept erasing off of it. This gave the older kids a chance to redraw the geometric diagrams with chalk. I love this kind of natural repetition, because my kids hate to do anything twice (or more) if they can help it. When it’s fun, it allows for more leeway.

We ended up playing this game for much longer than I thought anyone would want to, and by the time we were finished they had a nose, elbow, knee, finger, ear, and foot on just about every part of a circle at one point or another.

Then, for kicks, we measured the circumference of the trampoline in string and stretched it out to see how long it was.

All in all, a good time was had by all! Find a trampoline and try it out!

Trampoline Math

More Math Mondays here.

31 Responses

  1. math on the tramp???
    you know I love this one!

  2. This is so utterly fabulous! Almost enough to make me go out and buy a tramp. (Only my dh, the ER nurse, says no way.)

  3. My God, what a wonderful idea! Cross my heart, we’re going to make it to one this summer!
    Oh! And were you the one who recommended World of Goo? Finally got it and set it up today. A was in HEAVEN. Didn’t want to stop, it was right up his alley. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • yes, it came highly recommended from chez childplay. Hopefully that will take you all the way through summer, lol. If not, I have a few other things up my sleeve in case A. needs more. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. seriuosly, you need to start your own school..really, tiff – your awesome!

  5. Hee hee, we JUST got a trampoline from friends, this looks like fun! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Oh, this is a Must Do! The boys are trampoline addicts… and my hubby happens to teach geometry. Amazing we never thought of this before!

    • I just linked through and saw your banner pic, lol. Yes, trampoline math is right up your alley…

  7. Ok, I have a trampoline, and I still don’t feel ready to do the origami session, so I think the next math salon will be trampoline math. Thank you!!

    (Richmond, CA, Saturday, June 13, 2pm – anyone want to join us? I’m at

    • I think you’ll have a blast with this, seeing as you actually know what you’re doing mathmatically speaking, lol. It was cool to see geometric shapes appear when they made tangents, etc.

      When we measured the circumference with a string, all the kids held it in place but it straightened out from person to person so they had to keep finding ways to ’round it out’–it reminded me of the way to find the circumference of a circle by expanding a polygon. Fascinating stuff, let me know what spin you put on it!

  8. One of the demos at the Great Circles 09 meeting in San Francisco was a problem about circle slicing – how many pieces can you make with 1, 2, and so on slices.

    I just sent this link to my Natural Math mailing list. This looks like a lot of fun. Moreover, you can do “Simon Says” with lots of other things – it’s a meta-game, so to speak.

    • thanks for those links…love your natural math site!

      and yes, once I saw how involved all the kids got, I started thinking of all the ways ‘simon says’ can be incorporated in all different ways. Simple, easy, fun. And, next time I’ll have the parents join in! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. What a fabulous idea! Thank you so much for sharing. I will be putting it in the bank for future use, to be sure!

  10. I love this idea! I’m going to add you to my blog roll.

    • Melissa–a fellow Coloradoan! Thanks for the add. I’m off to explore more of your blog(s).

  11. Great Math Monday idea.

  12. […] Child’s Play continues an excellent series on the mathematics of circles with Math Monday: Trampoline Math! […]

  13. We are DEFINITELY doing this next time we go to Pappap’s (he has a trampoline AND was a high school math/computer teacher.)

  14. Hi, I’m doing my math salon tomorrow. I have a few questions. If you see this in time, I’d love to know…

    I’m wondering if there’s a way I can view your flikr photos as a slide show? That would be great to have going while folks are here.

    Also, I was looking at your other post on Circle Math, and I’d love a template for the 36 point circle. Or instructions on how you made it…

    My theme is circles. I’ll write it up at Math Mama Writes after. Thanks!

  15. […] Childโ€™s Play continues an excellent series on the mathematics of circles with Math Monday: Trampoline Math! […]

  16. Do your children take the Sat tests. in our state they are mandatory but I have figured away to avoid them all together hopefully I can get away with this because I dont want my child to feel pressured and me to feel pressured and stressed out . wether or not shes prepared or not for them I do not want her to take them! .Do you think its a good idea to skip her a grade and then tell them shes a grade ahead so she doesnt havent to take the test when she is really in that grade but they dont have t o know when shes in that grade but if the y ask I will tell them the truth she is in the grade shes in during the summer and during the winter shes in the grade that the testing is not in. It is a law to test in ND IN 4TH 6TH 8TH AND 10 GRADE . ASK AROUND AND TELL ME WHAT EVERY ONE SUGGESTS. I think my suggestion was great what does every one think in your neck of the woods if you were in my predicta ment . I am the only parent of a unschooler in ND I think.I know they will disagree with me and my style of learningfor my child and this is the best way she learns by the way she loves to learn through play. I cant find any other. unless they a re hiding like I am . Most are homeschooling parents and teaching and schooling for religious christian beliefs. My child is gifted in many areas but not in math but is learning it different ways. this is why I want to avoid the sat testings. That is not my reason though. I also dont want them to find out because it is private her way of learning will be labeled disabled /gifted and I dont want that. I dont want to have them see her as a guinea pig and try all different things with her to see she learns better by moving around not writing no dril sheets and socializing and doing learning her way when she wants to learn . Not having to do things their way . Thanks

    • WHAT IF A UNSCHOOLER WANTS TO TEST WITH T HE OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOLERS . WHAT IF MINE DOES NOT WANT TO BUT THE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT REQUIRES IT . I can try to say shes in another grade at the time they say its time to test but I am not sure if I CANget away with this. I can skip the grades all together but do them at home but tell the public school I am skipping my child so she can progress at her own level and not feel bad by the testings . if my unschooler wants to learn the material of 4th 6th 8th and 10th and Ii would hope she does then that will be great but I dont think she needs to be tested on anything she learns or doesnt learn. The scores are never correct and dont do any good for a child any how . I dont believe they need to know a iq of a child they dont even know . only the parents need to know this information . It is an invasion of privacy in a family and a child’s life. It is not right

  17. I’m Ardilas. From Indonesia. I like your post.
    Can you put my site link ( on this post, with anchor text/link text: trampoline?
    Please delete this comment.
    Thank you!

  18. Hello!

    I’m Ardilas. From Indonesia.

    I like your post.
    Can you put my site link ( on this post, with anchor text/link text: trampoline?

    Please delete this comment.
    Thank you!

  19. You can continue. I don’t mind.

  20. […] Says…” Angles Math Posted on November 10, 2009 by childsplay In the spirit of Trampoline Math, our Math Club last week opened with some new Simon Says activities. Our exploration into square […]

  21. I unschool in Velva Nd. There are not even other home schoolers around here . The closest homeschoolers are the Minot group who all Homeschool. Which I dont . I Home educate but nothing to do with school . I deschool as much as possible and destress as much as possible. I dont know if there are any unschoolers in ND ? If you know any one give them my email so we can converse and comunicate. thankyou . I am also on Face book Dianne Whetzel

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