Monthly Archives: November 2017

Maths and Sport

Maths and Sport have very strong links, most of which I had no idea even existed until our input on the subject and further research afterwards.

One very obvious link between the two is the use of different scoring systems in various sports. Some scoring systems are quite simple such as the one used in football- each goal scored by a team is counted as one and at the end of the game the team with the highest number of goals win the game. Other scoring systems such as the one used in tennis is a little more complex, in a game of tennis the scoring system usually consists of points, games and sets. All three link as you have to accumulate points to win games and accumulate games to win sets. Although slightly more complex maths is used in the scoring system for tennis than in games like football, maths is always at the heart of sports and is vital to ensure that the running of games is efficient.

John Barrow, a professor of mathematical sciences researches many different ways in which maths and sport are related and links these to particular formulas and even has mathematical theories in which it can be determined which events are the easiest to score in when participating in a decathlon.

The video below explains some of the links between sport and mathematics, examples being fluid dynamics being used to tailor and design swimsuits and a maths model being made to determine whether there is actually a limit to how much an athlete can push themselves. The main point that I have taken from this particular video is just how much mathematics is involved in the design and manufacture of sporting venues. Routes and structures are carefully analysed by mathematicians to ensure that the building/stadium etc can withstand its purpose, maths is also used to ensure that the structure can withstand various weather conditions including rain, wind and snow. Maths is used not only to predict what the needs are for the building, but also to predict the behaviour of the people who will be inside the building to ensure not only that the structure is appropriately designed for purpose but also that it is safe.

In our maths and sport input, we decided to look at the rules and the sport of taekwondo and how maths comes into the sport and how we can adapt the sport in relation to the maths involved. In taekwondo a game consists of three 2 minute rounds with a break of 1 minute between each round and the contest area is a 10m square mat. Like most sports, the game can be won by scoring the most points. The scoring system in taekwondo is fairly simple and does not involve complex mathematics- one point is scored for a strike to the body and two points are scored for a kick in the head. Another mathematical link to the sport is the weight divisions in use. By dividing people into categories depending on weight this allows the competition to work more fairly and allow competitors to have an equal chance at victory.

We, as a group decided to take the maths involved in taekwondo and adapt it to create our own version of the sport. We decided firstly to focus on the actual design of the ring the sport is played in, we suggested decreasing the size of the ring after every round- this means that the competitors will have less space and so the competition would gradually become more difficult at the beginning of each new round. We also decided that we would introduce a height division as well as the weight division that is already in place. This would again, ensure a fairer fight if the competitors were more mathematically matched in terms of their height as well as their weight.

Now that I am much more aware of the links between maths and sport I will now take my knowledge forward and hope to share this knowledge with the children I will teach in the future, in this way those who perhaps feel like maths isn’t a subject for them may find alternative ways to engage with the subject through other subject areas which may be of more interest to them.


Barrow, J. (2013) Decathlon: The Art of Scoring Points– Available at: (Accessed 27th November 2017)

Holme, R. (2017) “Maths of Sport” [powerpoint presentation] ED21006:Discovering Mathematics (Accessed 27th November 2017)


Maths and Music

Music is something that I have always had a strong interest in and I studied the subject throughout my time at high school. Little did I know just how many links there were between music and maths. I was always very aware of the simple mathematical concepts that were involved in music such as determining how many beats were in a bar or the different note values. However, after the maths and music input and further research into the topic I am now much more aware that there are many more links between the two subjects than meets the eye.

There are many basic links between maths and music, these links include: pitch, beats in a bar, note values, chords, intervals and sequences and patterns.

Wiggins (2012) states that pitch is something that can be related directly with mathematics as we can measure pitch. A musical skill such as tuning a piano makes use of mathematical concepts.

Also, by having an understanding of maths principles, it is then easier to have a more theoretical understanding of music and musical concepts. An example of this is the formation of chords. There are 13 notes in an octave, a scale, however, is formed of 8 notes and the 5th and 3rd notes in this scale form a basic ‘root’ chord. By understanding the intervals between notes and the numbering of the notes, this would allow a musician to be able to form the root chord of any note asked of them without really having to think about it.

Below is a video of a prime example of mathematics being used by extremely famous composer Beethoven, who was actually partly deaf and used his mathematical knowledge to create music that was so widely popular with listeners.


Besides mathematical and musical concepts being very closely linked, I was also interested in further reading about if the connection between maths ability and musical ability has actually been proven or if it is, in fact, just a myth.

In the article The Enduring Myth of Music and Maths (The Independent, 2011) it is stated that there is no evidence to back up the supposed “Mozart Effect” in that a group of children who have been exposed to music by Mozart are said to be more intelligent in subject areas like maths than children from a control group.

From my research I have found that there are in fact many links between music and maths that I did not know existed however there does not seem to be much evidence to prove that abilities in the two areas are linked. You do not necessarily have to be mathematically talented in order to acquire musical skills and knowledge.

I will take forward my knowledge of the links between the subject and hope to share them with those I teach in the future as music has always been a subject I have been passionate about but I never quite realised just how much of my mathematical knowledge I put to use throughout my studies of music. I feel that this may be a good way to help pupils who suffer from maths anxiety to put maths to use without actually realising it and hopefully improve their confidence along the way.



Gowers, T. (2011) “The Enduring Myth of Music and Maths”, The Guardian, 5th July, no page given.

Sangster, P. (2017) “Music and Maths” [powerpoint presentation] ED21006:Discovering Mathematics (Accessed 17th November 2017)






Maths Anxiety

Throughout my school life I had always just accepted that I was more talented in the area of languages than I was in maths. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do maths, it was simply that I felt more confident and comfortable in other school subjects.

The above is one of the reasons why I jumped at the opportunity to study the Discovering Mathematics module when it was offered as one of the second year electives. Already, I can see the positive impact that my learning from this module will have in my future career. I know that in order to teach maths and make the children in my class feel at ease with the subject then I must be confident in my own abilities and approach maths in a very open-minded way.

The Guardian article “Maths Anxiety: The Numbers are Mounting” spoke of a particular example of maths anxiety. A young girl called Flora had significant difficulties with anything related to maths however her struggles seemed to go unnoticed at school. Shortly after moving to a new school, Flora’s difficulties were noticed by her teachers and suspected that she may have dyscalculia which is a kind of dyslexia with numbers as her maths was observed to be very poor. After referral to an educational psychologist however, it was found that Flora’s problems were not down to ability but actually down to her anxiety towards maths as a subject.

Maths anxiety is extremely common and is said to affect around a quarter of the population which equates to more than 2 million school children in England alone, along with thousands of teachers.

The concept of maths anxiety was first discovered in the 1950s, however the significant effect it has on performance has only newly become evident.

A study which is also explained in The Guardian article previously mentioned above was conducted to look further into the reasons why anxiety towards mathematics affects performance in such a devastating way. Researchers at Stanford University have used scans in order to see what goes on inside the brains of children who suffer from maths anxiety, and discovered that these children respond to sums in the same way that people with phobias may reacts to snakes or spiders which increases activities in the fear centres of the brain. Increased activity in these areas causes a decrease in activity in the areas of the brain which assist problem solving which then makes it harder for the individual to come up with the correct answers.

Although maths anxiety is extremely common in today’s society, there are still no formally established diagnostic tests to decide when simply being worried about maths becomes maths anxiety. Mike Ellicock, chief executive of the charity National Numeracy states “labelling and categorising children into those who can and can’t do maths isn’t helpful. There is nothing more certain to be a self-fulfilling prophecy… but given encouragement and the right support, everyone can meet a functional level of numeracy.” This statement shows that by simply accepting that some children will cope well with maths while others will struggle, we are doing nothing for the children. If we, as teachers, encourage and support the children who have insecurities in the area of mathematics then we can help them to strive to be an individual with simple maths skills which will help them as they go forward in life. Even if these children never go onto study complex maths, by simply assisting them to go forward and use essential maths skills such as money handling or telling the time, then we have made a real difference to their life.

The above video describes some of the reasons why people get so anxious about maths. The video mentions that anxiety is more prominent in maths than it is in other subjects. There is no exact answer as to why this is however studies have suggested that the way children are exposed to maths by their parents and teachers has a major effect on how the children view maths. If parents talk about maths as something unfamiliar and challenging then the children will also adopt this view. Teachers with maths anxiety are also more likely to pass it on to the children in their class.

Both the above video and an article from The Guardian “The Fear of All Sums: How teachers can help students with maths anxiety” highlight some of the ways in which teachers can help children feel at ease with maths and encourage and support them to be successful in the subject. It is vital to give children the time and space they need to tackle a maths problem as if they are under pressure to complete something under a given time scale then this adds to the stress and will give the child a negative experience of mathematics. It is also important to go slow, beginning with the basics of a topic then slowly progressing in order to make the increasing difficulty less daunting for the learner. It is vital to make lessons fun, playing maths games is a great way to practice maths skills without the pressure of the need to get the right answer in order to get a good mark, this allows the learner to relax and enjoy their experience. The use of positive language is a great way of reassuring learners that they are doing a great job, using praise in front of their peers or parents is also a great way to boost children’s confidence.

Overall, I now feel that I will be able to approach maths in the classroom in a more confident manner as the teacher. I now know the techniques to put in place and the best possible way to approach the teaching of maths to those children who suffer from maths anxiety in order to give them the best possible chance at success in their maths studies.



Brian, K. (2012) “Maths anxiety: the numbers are mounting”, The Guardian, 30 April, no page given.

Chandran, P. (2015) “The fear of all sums: how teachers can help students with maths anxiety”, The Guardian, 17 November, no page given.