Go for gold with Olympic maths

Go for gold with Olympic maths

It's that time again, when we gather round to watch the celebration of human spirit that is the Olympic Games. 

It's been five long years since we last watched this impressive collection of otherwise mostly un-televised sports - this year including for the first time surfing, skateboarding, climbing and karate (to get down with the kids, we presume). 

Family time 

And the Olympic games is perfect for just that - getting down with your own kids to watch whatever might spark their interest. With sports from archery to wrestling (with loads that you might not even have heard of in between) there's something for everyone. 

Here's just a snippet of what's on offer...

While sports like athletics and gymnastics get most of the attention, there's maths to be found everywhere in the Olympics, you just have to know where to look. 

At Komodo we think that highlighting the maths in things we come across in our daily lives (like watching sports on TV) not only helps children form a good relationship with numbers and mathematical terms but helps them see how maths is 'useful' for life. 

Bringing up mathematical concepts in a relaxed and every day way can help prevent children from developing anxiety about anything to do with numbers or maths.

Maths words

No matter which sport you're watching, you can help young children improve their mathematics vocabulary. 

Talk about: Who ran fastest, who jumped furthest, who scored highest, who threw the longest distance etc.

Shape fun

The Olympics is full of all kinds of shapes, some obvious and some not so. 

Try: How many circles can you count in the Olympics? 

Hint: Think of the symbols, the playing fields, the equipment, and see how many you can find!

Try: What other shapes are there? 

Hint: Check out the playing fields, flags, equipment etc. Can you find a triangle anywhere? 

Comparisons and measurement

Learning how to compare one thing with another is an important mathematical skill. 

In races, you can work out how much faster the person who came first was than the person who came second. 

Try: Can you do something for this length of time? For example, if the winner is 3.5 seconds faster than the person who came last, see if you can time yourselves humming for this length of time and see who comes closest. 

In field athletics, you can work out how much farther the person who won jumped, or threw their discus, hammer, javelin or shot put. 

Try: Look at the table of results to see the distance each athlete has thrown, and try to approximate the difference in length in your own living room - the length of your rug, or the length of someone lying down on the floor perhaps? It's good for kids to get an idea of how long metres and centimetres are in relation to everyday objects.  


Here's a question - how heavy do you think the ball is in the shot put event? 

Although it doesn't look very big, kids (and adults) may be surprised to know that it weighs 7.26 kilos in the men's event, and 4 kilos in the women's. That's heavy! 

Try: Can you make this weight with things in your house? See what it feels like to lift one kilo of sugar - can you imagine throwing four of those all that distance?

Mental gymnastics

Gymnastics and some of the artistic sports have a very complex scoring system, which even adults who aren't familiar with the sport can find mind boggling. However, the scores themselves can be a good introduction to decimal numbers, estimation and averages. This is true for any sport where scores from various attempts are added together.

Try: Look at the numbers and talk about them with your kids, looking at the scores and noticing that 8.00 is higher than 7.99 even though the two nines might make it look like a bigger number. 

Try: Talk with your child about whether the scores are being added together, or whether an average score is being used and explain how these calculations are done. With older children, see if you can estimate together what score an athlete or team needs to win. 

Medal maths

It all comes down to the medals in the end - you can find an up to date medals table here.

You can see that it's the number of gold medals that decides which team comes at the top of the table. 

Try: How would this table look if we changed how much each medal was worth - for example, if a gold was worth 3 points, a silver was worth 2 points and a bronze worth 1 point?

Who would be at the top of the table then? 

There's lots of maths in Olympic sports - draw attention to the numbers and make maths a part of daily life! 

About Komodo - Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths - without keeping them at the screen for long. 

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths - you can even try Komodo for free.
And now we've got Komodo English too - check it out here.

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