The parallels between sport and mathematics
I particularly enjoyed taking a group of girls away this week to play a hockey match. As a PE and mathematics specialist I think I am quite rare and I have been wondering why this should be. There are certainly many parallels between the two areas and I believe that it is my sporting background that has led me to become a successful mathematics teacher.
One of the fundamental principles of learning a new sporting skill is breaking it down into its constituent parts. It then needs building back up to create the entire action. An example would be a strike at goal in hockey. The skill consists of the correct foot position, the backswing, angle of attack, strike, and the follow-through. There are exercises that can work on each part of the action to improve the whole.
In mathematics we could take a written method and break it down into layout, place value, order of calculations and result. Strengthening each of the different areas will result in a better overall method.
Nothing can substitute playing the game, as the girls found during the match on Wednesday. It is all very well endlessly practising passing if there is no opposition to pass around. The same applies to mathematics. If the skills are never put into context then they don’t become real or useful. This is the reason that the girls at Portsmouth High Junior School have at least one lesson a week where they investigate and problem solve. It allows them to use trial and error as well as apply their skills to a range of situations. Just as playing the game is the most enjoyable part of hockey, investigations enthuse the girls towards mathematics.
I am looking forward to the pizza and movie night organised by the PSA this evening. It gives a valuable opportunity for the girls to relax and have a good time at the end of a busy week at school.