When you think of the Olympics, cricket, the triathlon or diving - maths may not be a common denominator that immediately springs to mind. But all have featured in maths lessons at the Hayesbrook School, a specialist sports college for boys in Tonbridge, Kent.
Awarded sports college status in 2001, Hayesbrook's examination grades have steadily risen. A couple of years ago, it was the most improved sports college in the country. The number of students gaining five or more GCSEs at grade C or above is now around 55 per cent, having gradually risen from below 30 per cent. Last year year, 98 per cent obtained five or more grades of A* to G.
Dave Rowe is assistant headteacher and director of PE and sport. "As a specialist college, we are expected to incorporate the specialism into other subject areas. Doing this with maths has been a real success," he says.
Where better to demonstrate Pythagoras' theorem than a cricket pitch? Having researched wicket dimensions, students are able to calculate its hypotenuse. Maths teacher Sarah Chapman, responsible for whole school numeracy, says: "I'm very much into maths being practical."
Olympic decathlon results were put onto a spreadsheet for data-handling work, graphs were plotted to demonstrate which event was the most difficult and percentages were used to compare top 100-metre sprinters with the top decathlon 100-metre runners. Other comparisons and calculations used triathlon results. The women's winner, says Sarah, ranked only 44th in the swimming, but by the time she had finished the cycling she was 10th - her transition time was the fastest.
Negative numbers? Think diving. Sarah likens mountains to positive numbers, diving to negative, because you are below sea level. "If you get your numbers wrong, you've got the bends, haven't you?" she says.
Football transfer fees find their way into maths, too. Students examine current fees, comparing today's with those of 30 or 40 years ago.
Percentage increases are calculated, and comparisons made with the typical wage of the day. Even betting is examined, under the guise of probability.
"They are using the maths for a real purpose," says Sarah. "I want pupils to realise where the maths is applicable, so they have got an idea where they can use it in their future life. It's not just something they do in the classroom."
The school also uses sport across the rest of the curriculum.
Fitness-testing equipment, such as Dartfish, finds its way into science lessons. This video analysis tool was originally designed for use in PE.
Whiteboard compatible, it features slowmotion, freeze-frame, time-delay and split-screen modes to enable athletes to monitor performance. By making a video of a science teacher giving practical demonstrations, it is possible to show experiments as continuous loops. Dartfish is similarly used in technology, geography (to analyse videos of volcanic eruptions) and drama, where students perform sports-based plays.
Other subjects to benefit include business studies. Office staff from the Brighton Bears basketball club spoke to students about how the club was run. The students followed this up by attending a game, then going backstage to gain an insight into the business of the club. Media studies students will watch a match and write a report.
Headteacher Nigel Blackburn says he has been "pleased, outstandingly" with the number of opportunities to integrate sport into the curriculum, although he knew from the outset that benefits were there.
"What I didn't grasp at the time was the number of spin-offs. It's been fantastic," he says.
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