Primary Primary Maths

Primary Maths – The Paralympics

The London 2012 Olympics were the highlight of the sporting year with new world records achieved, new faces bursting onto the sports scene, joy for many and despair for others. But then at the end of the day, the important thing for all was just being a part of it.

Whilst all the hype was over the main games, the Paralympics give us the chance in schools to continue the citizenship work we began with the Olympics.

In this set of Maths activities you’ll find the chance to work across the curriculum and enrich the learning of your pupils.


Activity One – Units of Measurement

LO: Be able to understand the concept of standard units
To develop a standard unit of measure they can use

Units of measurement are vital to us to ensure we do a job accurately, to get what we pay for in shops and to compare things and of course, in the Olympics they are used to help decide the winners in events but how did we get them?

Many of our units of measurement come from ancient times when parts of the body were used; so a thumb’s width gave us an inch, a yard was the distance from our nose to the end of our outstretched arm whilst a foot, well that’s obvious. Metric measurements are more scientifically calculated with a metre being 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the equator to the North Pole.

The difficulty with all of these is that they can differ between people and even the geographical measurement can vary as the North Pole is moveable. This activity helps children to understand measure and why it needs to be standardised.

Get the children to draw around their feet and cut out four examples of their own foot shape. Now ask them to use the ‘feet’ to measure the width of their desks.

Talking Point: Are the measurements the same and if not, why?

Now get the children into groups and get them to use the ‘feet’ to measure the width of the classroom.

Talking Point: Compare answers from the groups. What do the children notice and why do they think it’s happened? How could we ensure we all get the same answers?

Tell the children that we use standardised units of measurement to avoid these problems.

Talking Point: If we were to decide on our own standard unit of measure, how could we do it?

The children may decide on one person’s foot or decide to do an average of all the children’s feet sizes. Duplicate the chosen measure and use it now to recalculate the measurements done previously.

At Home: Invent your own unit of measurement and measure different objects with it. In school, swap your homework with a partner and ask them to work out how long your unit of measurement is in cm or m.


Activity Two – Measuring Time

LO: Understand that time is divided up into units which we use to measure its passing
Be able to convert between different units of measurement

Some years ago there was an April Fool’s Day joke that time was going to be made metric. Imagine the day split into ten portions and each ‘hour’ portion divided into 100 minutes with each minute having 100 seconds.

This activity allows the children to use calculators to work out equivalent periods by comparing metric time with our usual time and to work out a timetable of daily events based on the metric time.

Talking Point: How can we work out how many normal hours are in a metric hour?

Using a calculator, the children should be able to divide 24 hours by 10 metric ones and suggest that there would be 2.4 hours or 144 minutes in a metric hour. They can then progress to working out how many minutes in a metric minute (be careful, you can’t just divide 60 by 100) and onto seconds.

Talking Point: How would you make a year metric?
Talking Point: Is metric time a good idea?

At Home: Using the ‘new clock’ draw up a timetable of your day with the new times so breakfast might be at 3.0 am in metric time, you may go to school at 3.3 am and school may start at 3.6 am. You could illustrate your work with a new watch or clock face.


Activity Three – Simple Algebra

LO: Be able to represent sums with equations where the letters represent variables
Be able to solve problems using algebraic equations

The Paralympics can be used to practise simple algebra, by simply looking at news reports of the events. For example:
‘Oscar Pistorius won the 100m in 10.91 seconds, improving on his previous time by 0.3 seconds’.

To find out his previous best we can simply do 10.91 + 0.3 = 11.21 but we can write out the sum as an algebraic equation thus:
P = 10.91 +0.3 or even p = t + d where p = previous time, t = new time and d = difference.

This formula can then be used to remind children of how to do similar questions.

Other examples will include perhaps:
‘Janez Roskar’s 90m javelin throw was twice as far as that thrown by the last placed competitor’.

This time the algebra looks like this:
90 = 2c
So from this we can calculate that the last place threw 45m

Use these examples to get you started then look for examples from daily reports on the games
1. In the 200m the margin between first and last place was 0.52s with the winner coming home in 21.49s
2. The discus event saw the winner throw one and a half times the distance that won the event in 2008. His throw of 33.3m was the best this year.
3. In the 50m pool, the leaders were already half a pool ahead by the third length.
4. The gold medallist in the fencing event scored 12 points more than the silver medallist and 34 more than the bronze with the medal positions racking up 95 points between them. (a tricky one!)

Dave Lewis
Primary Teacher

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