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 2 - Cycling Timing Challenge

3, 2, 1, Go! is a sports-maths challenge show which reveals how important maths is to sport. Two cycling-mad Key Stage 2 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 find out how consistent Sarah’s teammate can keep her speed throughout an 8-lap training session. They must time how fast she completes each lap, then work out the difference between the fastest and the slowest lap.

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 children 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 and which is the slowest lap

In preparation for the activity outside children decide what kind of movement they will use instead of cycling. A set of six different movements (running, skipping, walking backwards etc) would be sufficient.

List these on the board and ask the children to rank them in order of speed.

For example, will running be quicker than skipping? They write down their predictions.

Each small group marks out an agreed distance. Each child completes the distance using each of the six agreed movements and records their time for each.

Back in the classroom, how will we use the information we have gathered to decide which movement is the fastest? Collect ideas and then let each group of children decide their own method and carry it out on their own results.

Share findings and evaluate how effective each method is.

Did we all get the same ranking? If not, why not?


What was the longest time for each activity?
What was the shortest?
What was the mean average?
How would they work it out?
How could they show their findings so that other people could see what they had done and what they had found out?


This is an ideal activity for mixed ability groups.

Children who struggle can be supported by their peers to record accurately in a prepared table rather than devising their own.

Related resources

  • Olympic Starters This KS2 activity uses the history of the Olympic Games to introduce ideas about measuring time and distances in standard units.
  • Match the Matches This KS2 data handling activity challenges pupils to match data on the number of goals scored by two football clubs, presented in a number of different formats including information on averages, to the correct team.

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

  • In Order This KS2 problem offers an opportunity to combine skills from mathematics and science and challenges pupils to rank quantities in order from smallest to largest.
  • Birdwatch This KS2 activity based on the real world context of the 2011 RSPB survey of garden birds encourages discussion and interpretation of data.

Learning outcomes-


KS2 curriculum:

[Ma2 3a] develop further their understanding of the four number operations and the relationships between them including inverses; use the related vocabulary; choose suitable number operations to solve a given problem…

[Ma3 4b] …choose and use suitable measuring instruments for a task…

[Ma3 4d] …use units of time – seconds, …

[Ma4 1d] select and use appropriate calculation skills to solve problems involving data

[Ma4 2a] solve problems involving data

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.