Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Primary - using The Olympics in Numeracy

Activity One – Big Numbers
Year 1 to Year 6

The number 2012 means more than just a year to most people for 2012 is the name most people give to the London 2012 Olympics. There are a mass of really big numbers involved in the games from the number of tickets sold, the number of countries competing and of course the cost of staging the games. To get children to understand the size of numbers, get the children to investigate them, completing the chart for the activity. You can then compare them to each other using place value.

Ask the children what the biggest number is that they know, some will say millions, some billions or trillions. You’re going to get the unusual ones like zillions or the monster godzillions!
An interesting discussion point is why the children say that the biggest number begins with the last letter of the alphabet. Is there a connection or is it just coincidence? You’ll find some bright spark will mention infinity although as Toy Story slips from their memories, it’s becoming less prevalent. Infinity is a great number to talk about. Can you have a number that is ‘infinity plus one’ or infinity minus one? What is the number and how do you write it?

There are lots of websites from the BBC News to the official 2012 website and they’re jam packed with statistics. A lot of children find researching information difficult, especially when looking for written information within a block of written information. Finding statistical information is easier as they’re looking for numbers within a block of text so quick scanning will throw up the numbers, meaning they’ve only got to identify the context from the surrounding words.

Begin by asking them to find some commonly available information such as:
How many countries are involved in 2012?
How many competitors will take part?
How many tickets have been sold?
Ask them then to find any other statistics in the information they discover about the games.

Make a class wall display with the numbers they’ve found, adding a medals table so they can keep tabs on the successes of each country.

You should try to put the place value headers for each number so they can compare and order the numbers. For the older ones discuss how many times bigger each digit is than one in a different column. You could even do some mega-maths by working out the cost per person of the Olympics or how many cars, trains or planes would be needed to transport the spectators to the spectacle.

Activity Two – Measures
Year 4 to Year 6

At the Olympics, everything will have a measure, be it the number of seconds taken for the 100m sprint or the weight lifted by the giants of the jerk and lift. You’ll have the points for the decathletes or the distance achieved by the javelin throwers. These are great for comparing, converting, ordering and finding differences. They’re also good for estimating. Many children won’t have much of an idea how long it might take to run the 10,000m so you can ask them to guess by giving clues. Perhaps give them help by getting the fastest in the class to run a hundred metres and ask them to multiply it up by 100.

One of my favourite activities is to set the children a maths problem where logic is also required. Try this one…

Fast Freddie runs the 100m in 10.09 seconds; Rapid Rajiv does it 0.5 seconds faster. Swift Sandhu is 0.16 seconds slower than Rajiv. Blistering Bernie’s time was halfway between Rajiv’s and Sandhu’s times.  Speedy Sam’s time was 0.08 seconds slower than Bernie’s. Who won the medals and what were their times?

In this activity, the children will have to get to grips with the number representing the time getting bigger as the times slow. This is anathema to their concept of numbers where bigger is better.
Use the events which are scored by length to calculate equivalents in different units, so, for example: How many centimetres are the same as a long jump of 8 metres 35 centimetres? Again, you can do a similar activity to the ordering one for the 100m which can be differentiated by the numbers you use. 

Activity Three – Area and Probability
Year 5 and Year 6

Whilst it seems an improbable combination, these two concepts come together neatly in this activity. This is a good one for those who need extension activities in maths and involves them combining different skills.
The archery and shooting events use targets comprised of concentric circles, each covering a different area.
Ask the children to decide which they think is the easiest to hit and which is the hardest.

They can investigate their answers practically by using different sized hoops on the ground and trying to land bean bags in them. Statistically, it will be easier to land them in the bigger circles. Then place the rings inside each other and repeat the exercise. Do they get the same results?

Now you can investigate the statistic mathematically by calculating the area of each part of the target. Begin with the bulls-eye, using the formula πr^2. Now the thinking skills come in…

How would you calculate the area of a ring? The answer of course is to take the area of the inner circle away from the area of the outer circle.

Having calculated the area of each ring, ask the children to use the areas to calculate the probability of landing the arrow, bolt or pellet in each section. They should present their answers in the form ‘twice as likely’ etc.

Does this information correlate to the data they collected practically?

Dave Lewis
Primary teacher

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