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 - Rugby Pythagoras Challenge

3, 2, 1, Go! is a sports-maths challenge show which reveals how important maths is to sport. Two rugby-mad Key Stage 3 schoolchildren are taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. They meet two Welsh Rugby Union stars, Lloyd Williams and Harry Robinson, and are set a maths challenge related to rugby. They must work out how far the rugby ball travels in a straight line when it is kicked over the posts from a given spot on the pitch.

Possible uses in the classroom

Set the scene and the show the clip, stopping just after the challenge is described.

Ask the students to talk in pairs about how they think the boys will do the task, then share their ideas with the rest of the class.

Show the remainder of the video sequence, comparing what the boys did with the classes ideas. What instruments did they use? Were these the best choices?

If possible, test out the reality of these calculations outside. Is this a realistic answer? What other factors might need to be taken into account?

Assuming the ball just goes over the bar, where do you think it will it land? How do you know?

If the ball was kicked at a 45 degree angle, how far would it travel before it just went over the bar? If the ball was kicked at a 30 degree angle, how far would it travel before it just went over the bar?


Do kickers kick the ball in a straight line or a curve?

Investigate what shapes the kicked ball could make to just go over the bar. Which do you think is the best? Why?


Repeat the main activity by calculating the distance the ball has to be kicked from different distances.

Related resources

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

  • Tilted Squares This KS3 problem offers an opportunity to spot patterns, make generalisations and eventually discover Pythagoras's Theorem, while giving students the chance to practise working out areas of squares and right-angled triangles. It includes an interactivity as well as detailed teacher notes.

Learning Outcomes - Numbers

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.
[Ma2 5a] distinguish the different roles played by letter symbols in algebra…
[Ma3 1c] identify what further information is needed to solve a problem; break complex problems down into a series of tasks.
[Ma3 1e] communicate mathematically; making use of geometrical diagrams…
[Ma3 2h] understand, recall and use Pythagoras’ theorem.
[Ma4 1a] carry out each of the four aspects of the data handling cycle to solve problems… [see aspects therein]
[Ma4 1b] identify what further information is required to pursue a particular line of enquiry.
[Ma4 3a] …collect data using various methods including observation, controlled experiment, data logging, questionnaires and surveys.

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.