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 - Rowing Multiplication Challenge

3, 2, 1, Go! is a sports-maths challenge show which reveals how important maths is to sport. Two rowing-mad Key Stage 1 schoolchildren are taken to Bisham Abbey. They meet Olympic sculler Anna Watkins, and are set a maths challenge related to rowing. Using a real rowing boat to help them, the challenge is to work out how many oars a four person crew need if they have two each.

Possible uses in the classroom:

Set the scene by asking the children to name as many Olympic sports that can think of that are in or on the water. List them on the board and then ask the children what equipment is needed for each.

Show the video clip up to the point where the challenge is given. Ask the children to predict how many oars there will be and how they know.

You could model the challenge using children sitting in four chairs in a line. Ask them to write down a number sentence to describe what they did.

Show the rest of the video. Did the boys do a good job? How did their number sentence compare with the classes?

Write number sentences for sculls with 2 people, 8 people. Can they make up some number sentences about two sculls, five sculls, ten sculls?

I have 20 oars. How many sculls could I have?


If I have 3 sculls what is the most number of people I could have?
What’s the least?
What’s the most number of oars?
What’s the least?

I have 30 oars. What’s the most number of sculls I could have? What’s the least?


Children who find this challenging may find it easier to focus on the number of rowers rather than the number of oars.

Make simple cut out boats with representations of people. Children make up their own number sentences about the rowers

Related resources

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

  • Multiplication Tables - Matching Cards This game is a fun way to practise multiplication tables and can be played interactively or by printing out cards. It is aimed at students from KS1 to KS2 and KS3.
  • I'm Eight How many ways can you find of asking questions which make 8? This is a fantastic activity for engaging pupils in thoughtful work and for getting them to push forward their own understanding of number.
  • Secret Number This game is a good one to play with young children once they are familiar with the basic number operations. This principle is the basis for algebra and solving unknowns in equations, so as well as enjoying what they are doing, children will be engaging with some important mathematical ideas.

Learning outcomes-


KS1 curriculum:

[Ma2 3c] …know multiplication facts for the x2 and x10 multiplication tables

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.