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 3 - Rowing Graph Plotting Challenge

3, 2, 1, Go! is a sports-maths challenge show which reveals how important maths is to sport. Two rowing-mad Key Stage 3 schoolchildren are taken to Bisham Abbey. They meet Olympic sculler Anna Watkins, and are set a maths challenge related to rowing. The stroke rate is the number of times a rower pulls their oar in a minute. The challenge is to measure how the team’s stroke rate changes over the training session, find the average, and decide whether the team improved over the session or not.

Possible uses in the classroom

Set the scene; what do they know about rowing in the Olympics?
Watch the video up to where the challenge is given.
What do they estimate that the stroke rate would be and how they think the stroke rate might change during a race.
How will the girls calculate the stroke rate for three stretches, and the average? Take ideas and record them.
Watch the rest of video and compare the students’ ideas to what the girls do.
Why is it important for the rowers to know their stroke rate?
Is this a realistic survey?

You could repeat the video activity outside with students counting the steps they take in each minute of a 3 minute run, and working out the mean. Would they be able to maintain that rate for longer than 3 minutes?

Look at a screen from a rowing machine. What does the information tell you about the rower?
What could you work out from this information?

This activity lends itself to working in mixed ability pairings.

Related Resources

  • Looking at how the students in the video plot the data they collect on a graph, you could also relate this to our KS3 activities Charting Success and Charting More Success which invite students to consider, analyse and discuss different ways of presenting sports data through diagrams, charts and graphs.
  • Reaction Timer also involves students collecting and analysing data and could give the opportunity to explore averages. It is aimed at KS3 students.

The following problems from our NRICH website take the mathematical ideas encountered in this activity and extend them or explore them in more depth:

  • How Far Does it Move? This KS3 interactive resource provides a visual context in which to consider how distance / time graphs represent movement over time.
  • Speeding Up, Slowing Down This KS3 interactive resource provides a visual context in which to consider how speed / time graphs represent movement over time.
  • Up and Across This more challenging interactive problem for KS3 students provides a visual context in which to consider how graphs can represent horizontal and vertical movement over time.
  • M, M and M This KS3 problem offers students an opportunity to consolidate what they are expected to know about mean, mode and median whilst also challenging them to work systematically, and justify their reasoning.

Learning outcomes:
KS3 curriculum:
[Ma2 1f] represent problems and solutions in algebraic or graphical forms…
[Ma2 1j] show step-by-step deductions in solving a problem; explain and justify how they arrived at a conclusion.
[Ma4 1a] carry out each of the four aspects of the data handling cycle to solve problems… [see aspects therein]
[Ma4 3a] …collect data using various methods including observation, controlled experiment, data logging, questionnaires and surveys.
[Ma4 4a] draw and produce… scatter graphs…
[Ma4 4b] calculate mean… of small data sets…

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.