Activities for Mathematical Outreach Events

2016 Outreach Activities

The activities provided below are designed to be approachable for students of multiple age levels and can be adapted up or down to meet your needs or students’ interests. The activities are designed to have a low-entry point (be easy to start) but should also allow for some deeper and more advanced mathematical discussions with the students who are attending the session. All activities should cost less than $20 and are recommended for one hour or more of mathematical fun!

(1) Stomp Rockets, (2) Four Square Problem, (3) Mathematical Tiling, and (4) Criss Cross.

There are also tips for doing mathematical outreach including tips about safety when working with minors.

Stomp Rockets


Description: Stomp rockets are great for STEM outreach events. Students construct rockets out of construction paper and then hypothesize which rocket will go the highest. Using mathematics the students can then work together to calculate the height of their final rocket flights.Links for more information:

Supplies needed:

Four Square Problem

Four Square

Description: This problem is perfect for students who need practice in basic arithmetic and are up for a challenge. The students repeat subtraction over and over again and the more they engage in the game the harder subtraction problems they will assign to themselves.
Links for more information:

Supplies Needed: Activity sheet whiteboard kits: Whiteboard markers, sheet protectors, erasers/ rags, and worksheet (pdf).

Mathematical Tiling


Description: Tiling allows us to mathematizes the world around us, providing game play with classroom tile floors or kitchen counters. The nice aspect of doing tiling while doing mathematical outreach is how nicely challenge activities can be provided for students who understand the basic game and are ready to take it to the next step.
Links for more information:

Supplies Needed: 8×8 tiling boards, 7×7 tiling boards, 2×1 and other shaped mathematical tiles. tiling grid (pdf).


Criss Cross


Description: Criss-Cross is a game presented by S. Vandervelde in his Circle in a Box book of Math Circle activities and planning documents. The game is approachable by students of various backgrounds and easily scaffolded up or down depending on students’ interests.Links for more information:

Supplies Needed: Activity sheet whiteboard kits: Whiteboard markers, sheet protectors, erasers/ rags

Tips for doing Mathematical Outreach:

Most likely, if you’re going to all the work to do an outreach project your goal is to share a bit of your mathematical enthusiasm with the students you are presenting to. We have found that the enthusiasm is best communicated when students are doing activities they are able to engage with and are having a good time. This could involve what we like to call productive funstration.

The activities that we have provided in this handbook should provide quality mathematical experiences and also provide the opportunity to more deeply engage in problem solving. Have your students try different problem solving techniques and come up with their own questions to explore, the sky is the limit! You can also use these activities to introduce students to problem-solving tips to get the students started:

  • Do something – get your hands dirty.
  • Start simple.
  • Organization.
  • Find patterns.
  • Wishful thinking.
  • Work backwards.
  • Draw a picture.

Beyond these teaching tips be aware of these safety tips for working with minors.

  • Always practice the Buddy System:
    • Never leave one adult alone with one student.
    • If the student is leaving the room send them with a friend.
    • Have a second adult stay with you until all the students leave the activity.
  • Check with your sponsoring institution for background check and other safety requirements and restrictions for working with K-12 students.
  • If you are hosting the activity be aware of the first aid and other emergency protocol for the site that you’re working at. Often a five minute phone call to the campus police can help you find the important details, just in case.
  • The NAMC hosts a webinar in the fall discussing some safety tips for working with minors. A summary of the webinar is provided online, Click here. Sign up at to be sent updates about future webinars.