An activity designed to apply math concepts to an outdoor science context.

Apply addition, multiplication, division, and estimation to outdoor science.


  • Pencils and notepads
  • Rulers or tape measures

Working in groups of 2 - 4, students assemble in the orchard. Choose ten buds on a long, young twig. Measure the space between each bud and record the distances.
What is the longest distance…the shortest distance? What is the average distance between two buds?
Count the number of buds on three different twigs. Determine the average number of buds per twig (total number divided by three).
Count twigs on four different branches and determine the average (total number divided by four).
Count the branches on a tree. About how many buds are on the tree? Make an estimate based on the average number of buds per twig multiplied by the average number of twigs per branch, again multiplied by the number of branches on the tree.

The class compares and discusses the estimations of each group.

Discussion Questions
How might the distances between buds:

    be related to the size of the leaves?
    be related to the size of the flowers?
    affect the health of the tree?
    be the result of the climate in which the tree lives?

Buds become leaves and flowers. The number and spacing of leaves, along with their size, is related to photosynthesis. The more leaf surface area, the greater absorption of sunlight used to create carbohydrates. Trees living in hot, sunny climates usually have more leaves that are smaller and closer together (cacti are an extreme example of this adaptation). Their leaves (needles) are so tiny that they can be almost invisible. The number of flowers relates to the number of fruit produced. and eventually affects seed dispersal. Different types of trees produce more or less seeds. Sometimes an unhealthy tree may produce more flowers (which become fruit and eventually seeds) than a healthier specimen of the same tree type in a desperate effort to reproduce itself.