Inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, BBC Two Learning Zone has produced a new series of video maths challenges for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. Developed with input from us (the University of Cambridge's Millennium Mathematics Project), 3, 2, 1, Go! sees real schoolchildren solve problems given to them by Olympic champions and sporting heroes.

Key Stage 1 - Cycling Timing and Ranking Challenge

3, 2, 1, Go! is a sports-maths challenge show which reveals how important maths is to sport. Two cycling-mad Key Stage 1 schoolchildren are taken on a tour of the National Cycling Centre in Manchester. They meet world individual pursuit champion and Paralympic gold medallist Sarah Storey, and are set a maths challenge related to cycling. The challenge is to time 4 laps completed by Sarah’s teammates, then find which one was the fastest.

Possible uses in the classroom:

Set the scene and the show the clip, stopping just after the challenge is described. Ask the children to talk in pairs about how they think the girls will do the task, then share their ideas with the rest of the class.

What equipment will they need? Are there any things they will need to be careful about? How will they know which lap is the quickest?

Show the remainder of the video sequence, commentating when actions occur that the children have drawn attention to, in particular:

Measuring accurately
Deciding which is the fastest lap

If you have access to bikes, you may like to replicate the activity, but change the aim to finding the longest lap instead of quickest.

Who can ride the slowest without falling off?

If you don’t have bikes you could replicate the video activity with skipping ropes, or hopping, or two legged jumping for example over a marked distance.

How long do they think it will take to ride, hop or jump the marked out distance?
How will they make sure they are measuring accurately?
How will they record the information?
Which was the shortest time?
Which was the longest?
Which was the quickest?
Which was the slowest?
How do you know?

In pairs, children order the results and work out the difference between successive timings.

What is the biggest difference? The smallest?

Children who find it difficult to start and stop a stopwatch to coincide with a movement could instead stop the watch when a 10 second interval has passed and count how many hops their friends could do in the time.

Who was the fastest? How do you know? Who was the slowest?

Related resources

  • Can You Do It Too? Can you throw a beanbag as far as the Olympic hammer or discus throwers? This KS1 activity introduces children to informal measures to compare distances.
  • Who Can Be the Winner? This KS1 activity gives children experiences of different ways of winning. Usually children expect a larger score to be the winning one. This holds in many sports (high jump, javelin throwing) but in timed events the smaller the number, the better. Confronting and discussing this contradiction may help them to understand some of the conversations about Olympic scores they may hear as well as supporting their longer term understanding of measure.

The following problems from our NRICH website explore some of the mathematical ideas encountered in this activity:

  • Order, Order! This KS1 problem offers an opportunity to combine skills from mathematics and science, and challenges children to rank quantities in order from smallest to largest.

Links to curriculum-


KS1 curriculum:

[Ma2 2c] read and write numbers to 20 at first…understand and use the vocabulary of comparing and ordering these numbers.

[Ma2 5b] solve a relevant problem by using simple lists, tables and charts to sort, classify and organise information.

[Ma3 1b] select and use appropriate mathematical equipment when solving problems involving measures and measurement.

[Ma3 1d] use the correct language and vocabulary for shape, space and measures.

Commissioned by BBC Two Learning Zone with advice from Lynne McClure (Director of NRICH, Millennium Mathematics Project, University of Cambridge), the clips were produced in collaboration with BBC Sport.