Some ideas for Active Maths through PE

For me Physical Education and Math are one of the same. I often find myself telling students who have a negative or attitude or perception towards maths that PE and Sport is Math but in its applied form. From scoring systems, rules and areas to recognising and applying patterns of movement and thoughts the two subjects are inextricably linked.

Therefore helping students develop their Math during PE sessions not only helps them in the classroom but also helps the student in their PE. Through applying Math in physical situations a students attitude and perception of competence in the subject can be transformed.

Firstly some sports such as Cricket and Archery naturally demand good Mathmatical skills and require little additional thought in terms of planning.

However here are a few simple ideas I have tried at Primary Level to help increase the confidence of target groups who may find Math a difficult subject to access:

Agility Ladders;

Agility ladders are an essential tool in your PE cupboard. For Active Maths get students doing simple movements up the ladder rhythmically. Then get them to repeat their times tables as they put their foot down. The ladder is broken down into sections (most have ten sections making a perfect tool for times tables up to ten) so as students travel through you can identify any points at which students lose confidence. Start them slow and as as they gain confidence they can speed up. The rhythm and association of saying the numbers as they put their foot down in each section of the ladder really helps them to remember. – One student who I have done this with told me that he was tapping his foot under the exam table and it helped him visualise and remember the answer! (Sorry to any invigilator a out there!)

Relay Races;

Sometimes students will need more time to think when trying to remember bigger numbers on their times tables (for example the 8x table) – simple relays give students time in which to think of the next number in sequence. This activity is best done in pairs. The first person races out and places the ball on the next cone and as they place it down must say the number so for example ‘8’ they run back then tag their partner who runs out picks the ball up and places it on the next cone saying the next number in sequence ’16’ and so forth until they get to the end.

I often also then have them doing it in reverse. The students quickly associate the cones with the numbers and you can get them to tell you – ‘what will the number be on the second cone’ essentially meaning what is ‘2 x 8?’ It also allows students to plan ahead before they run out. Students will often work out the whole sequence before they have their turn which leads to lots of reinforcement.

Game of Pairs;

Split group into two two teams or have students be by themselves. One person from each team runs out and has six seconds to turn over two cones. They must turn the cone back over once they have looked at it.

Simply write down different sums and answers on the underside of the cone with a normal white board pen.

If the student finds a matching sum and or answer they pick up the two cones and take them back for their team. This forces students to work out sums quickly and recognise sums that actually result in the same number or answer. It also means that they have to remember which sum is under which cone. I usually mix ‘ x + / -‘ sums and also some answers.

As a progression I normally put out at least three sums that result in the same answer plus an answer cone. This means that when a student goes out they may find an additional cone that matches their earlier answers which they can then take back to their team.

A further progression is to have the answer cones (in the photos the blue cones have the single number answers on them) in a line in the middle of the hall. The student runs out turns over a ‘sum’ cone and then must run and pick up one ‘answer’ cone from the middle line. If it’s a match they can then take the pair back. If it’s the wrong answer they must replace the cones.

Noughts and Crosses 

Basically this is a practical version of the above game. It just gets students to start to recognise patterns and is a nice problem solving warm up.

Students are split into two teams (again pairs work well) and have three coloured balls/bibs. Decide which team goes first and then the team member must put their ball on a cone in the grid – they then run back and then their partner has their go. The aim is to try and get your three balls in a row but also to stop your opponent getting their three balls in a row before you do! Once all three balls are on the grid you must move one of them each time to try and achieve your three in a row pattern.

Snap Quiz:

Using the same set up you can also do a snap quiz, this time when the student runs out they turn a cone over revealing a number written on the bottom, they shout out this number to the quiz master, the second team run out and pick up a different cone shouting it out to the quiz master, the two students must race back, as they are running back the quiz master holds up an operator (multiplication, subtraction, division or addition sign) once they are back they can turn round and try to give the correct answer before the other student.

Please let me know if you have any simple activities or ideas that can help reinforce students Math skills, and would love to hear from you if you try out or have done any of these.

By Kevin Peake

Founder of PESA; The PE and Sports Assessment Tool

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