With only 87 days (and 3 hours, 21 minutes and 2 seconds as I’m writing this) to go until the Olympic Games are you beginning to consider how you can harness this fantastic context in your maths lessons? (For the Olympic countdown visit http://www.theolympicgamescountdown.com/)
Learning is at its best (and often its easiest) when it is relevant and meaningful to the learner. Obvious really isn’t it? As the Olympic Games approach everyone will be talking about it, every channel will be airing news about it and our everyday lives will be full of an event that none of us will experience in our own country again within a lifetime. So it would seem a good time to start to look around and bring all of the essential maths that the athletes will be relying upon in their quest to be the best into our classrooms.
Every athlete aims to be the best at what they do. Some are the best in the world, they all are the best in their country and many achieve their personal best during the Games. But it’s all about being the best you can possibly be. What a great message to begin with: always aim to be the best you can be.
So how can we use ‘being the best’ in maths? How about a childhood game which has stood the test of time for many years: ‘Top Trumps’? Such a simple and yet absorbing game. I’ve seen many a Year 3 boy, who seemingly can’t order numbers to 100 or 1000 in a dull maths lesson, cope easily with the very same numbers during wet break or on the bus on a school visit. So engaging contexts really do make a difference.
How about designing and making your own Top Trumps by researching facts about the Olympians taking part in this year’s Games? How fast can they run? What age are they? How tall? World ranking? Number of previous medals? Age they became involved in the sport? Distance they’ve travelled to the Games? Number of athletes in their team? Number of athletes from their country?
Why stop at human Olympics? What about the animal kingdom? Did you know that a killer whale can cover 1km in a minute? How far can you run in a minute? What about Usain Bolt if he managed to keep up his 100m sprint speed? Which animals are the fastest? Tallest? Longest? If a poison dart frog is 100 times smaller than a zebra, what happens when we multiply his speed by 100? Is it faster or slower than the zebra???
The cross-curricular links here are endless. Reluctant readers get caught up in the context, ICT becomes essential, geographic skills in using Google Earth and atlas skills are applied and real reasons to discuss and present work are everywhere.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab the maths that the Olympians depend upon in their quest to be the best and place your maths lessons firmly in the real world where learning is relevant, applicable and exciting!
For more ideas like this visit www.karenwildingeducation.co.uk and look for ‘Olympic Maths Resource’.
Karen Wilding is an independent primary maths consultant working both in the UK and internationally.