The Olympic Countdown: A matter of maths and science

16 March 2011

With 500 days to go to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Nuffield Foundation is helping everyone to understand more about the maths and science of sport.

Funded by the Foundation, the award-winning Millennium Mathematics Project (MMP) has launched 'Maths and Sport: Countdown to the Games' to celebrate London 2012.

This new initiative explores the hidden mathematics underlying sporting success and will rolled out during the Olympic countdown.

It includes online articles and mathematical activities for all, along with resources for school teachers. These look at a wide variety of maths and science topics from predicting medal success through to the mechanics of pole vaulting.

Professor John Barrow, Director of the MMP, said: "The Maths and Sport project will offer a new and deeper perspective for everyone about what is going on during the sporting events at the London Games. Simple maths can be used to help show how Usain Bolt can run faster, find better ways to rig rowing eights or understand the statistics of scoring systems and drug testing."

He added: "The Millennium Mathematics Project is dedicated to inspiring students and teachers, showing them that maths is fun. Maths helps you learn things about the world that you cannot discover in any other way. We believe that the role played by maths in sport offers an exciting opportunity to enrich the teaching of mathematics in all schools."

Pole vaulter

Resources will look at a wide variety of maths and science topics from predicting medal success through to the mechanics of pole vaulting.

The Countdown to the Games initiative has been awarded the Inspire Mark, the badge of the London 2012 Inspire Programme. The London 2012 Inspire programme recognises exceptional and innovative projects that are directly inspired by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Seb Coe, Chair, London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games said: "Maths and Sport: Countdown to the Games will encourage young people to fulfil their potential. I am proud that partners such as the University of Cambridge's Millennium Mathematics Project are delivering on our vision to use the power of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to boost participation in education."

'Maths and Sport: Countdown to the Games' is co-funded by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and Gresham College.

The MMP was launched in 1999 as a joint programme within the Faculties of Mathematics and Education at the University of Cambridge.

Its online education resources for five-to-19-year-olds, teacher support materials and online maths magazine for the general public now have a world-wide following. MMP staff also work face to face with students and teachers at schools throughout the UK.

'Maths and Sport: Countdown to the Games' builds on the existing success of two of its online projects - Plus and NRICH, which attracted more than 18 million page views from over 4.3 million visitors across the world in the last school year.