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 - Rowing Timing and Multiplication Challenge

3, 2, 1, Go! is a sports-maths challenge show which reveals how important maths is to sport. Watch as two rowing-mad Key Stage 2 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 estimate the rowers’ stroke rate from watching 20 seconds of a race.

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 ‘ The catch is…..20 seconds’

What could Libby, May, and Solomon do to find the stroke rate? Take ideas and record them.

Watch the rest of video and compare the children’s ideas to what the children do. What does 18 strokes a minute feel like?

Ask the children to pretend to row whilst you time one minute. How many strokes did they do? Can they get closer to 18 by doing it again?

How many strokes would those rowers do in two minutes; ten minutes?

Why is it important for the rowers to know their stroke rate? Talk about how they think the stroke rate might change during a race.

You could repeat the video activity outside with children counting the steps they take in a 20 second run, working out the step rate for a minute, then tabulating and analyzing the results. Would they be able to maintain that rate for longer than a minute?


In pairs, children time 20 seconds run, 40 seconds run, 60 seconds run, 80 seconds run, 100 seconds run and 120 seconds run.

Which has the highest number of steps per minute? Was this a fair test? Why or why not?


Children who find this challenging could gain practice in using a stopwatch to time 30 seconds and finding the rate for a minute. They focus on doing lots of different activities, for example hopping, clapping, writing their name, and record their results. Do they think they would get quicker or slower if they had to do it for longer?

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.

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

  • Multiplication Squares This KS2 problem requires learners to find common factors and offers a context in which they can explain their reasoning.
  • Multiplication Square Jigsaw This interactive KS2 resource enables children to reinforce their understanding of the sequences contained within the multiplication square and provides a motivating context in which to practise their tables.
  • Countdown This version of the classic Countdown game challenges players to use the numbers available and the four standard operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) to hit the target.

Learning outcomes:


KS2 curriculum-

[Ma2 3a] develop further their understanding of the four number operations… choose suitable number operations to solve a given problem…

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

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.