Project-Based Elementary Math Activities
Teachers designing mathematics projects for elementary students must consider both the content included in
the projects and the types of activities that will engage different types of learners. The Common Core
Standards, soon to be adopted by most states, require elementary students to work with such difficult areas
as fractions, negative numbers and geometry. Students exhibit different types of intelligence, ranging from
physical intelligence ("body smart") to visual/spatial ("picture smart"). Math projects must be targeted to
reach these types of learners.
Estimate the Cost of a New Basketball Court
Students sometimes struggle with measurement. Authentic measurement projects can focus students on the
real-world applications of this mathematics skill. In this project, students work in small teams to calculate
the cost of a new floor for the school's basketball court. The teacher provides the cost per square foot. The
students must measure the floor, determine the area, and multiply the area by the cost per square foot.
Fourth-graders should complete this sort of activity in 15 to 20 minutes. Physical learners will enjoy this
Chart Length of Time Students Stand on One Leg
Some students have difficulty creating and interpreting data displays. Instead of just giving students raw
data from a textbook, teachers can allow students to engage in the behavior that forms the basis of the data.
Two students at a time stand on one foot. The other students record the time each student stands on one foot.
The cycle continues until all students have participated. Students then place the data on a large data display,
such as a Smart Board. This assists visual/spatial learners.
Buzzer System Game with Penalty Points
Grasping the concept of negative numbers is not an easy skill. Because most sports and games do not
involve numbers below zero, teachers can intentionally introduce negative numbers in classroom games.
Using the school's buzzer system or clicks attached to a Smart Board, students answer math questions in two
teams. The teacher tells the students that all incorrect answers will lose a point for the team, even if the
team's score is zero. The large screen draws the attention of visual/spatial learners. Students complete a
poster showing how the scores dipped down with incorrect answers.
Find Geometric Shapes in the Classroom
Physical learners will enjoy hunting around the classroom to find examples of assigned geometric shapes.
Students searching for trapezoids might find such varied examples as TV stands and magazine shelves.
Students might realize that floor tiles are both squares and rectangles if they have four 90-degree angles.
Students should provide a list to students to keep them on task, while giving them the option of searching for
the items in any order they wish. Students complete posters with drawings of the items they found.
basketball court dimensions