Attitude! Linking Sport with Success in Maths

I’m a firm believer that partaking in a sport will strengthen understanding of maths and the enjoyment. I would go as far as saying that it works both ways. This article is going to focus on the links between sport and maths specifically attitude.

Ms. Mary French
03 December

“What’s the point of algebra/trigonometry/fractions? I’m never going to use it.” My pat answer to this has always been two fold and brief in a big classroom situation. One, I give them one reason where that particular topic in maths is used in everyday life and secondly, I explain that it is training their thinking to be logical and this will help in their every day life decisions. Now, I would add a third reason - attitude.

 

I’m a firm believer that partaking in a sport will strengthen understanding of maths and it will increase the enjoyment of maths and I would go as far as saying that it works both ways. Like multiplication and addition, it is commutative. This article is going to focus on the links between sport and maths specifically the links around attitude.

 

Take bouldering, a category of climbing and in particular one of the three climbing disciplines that will be making its debut appearance in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. From the Tokyo Olympics page it is defined as:

 

“In bouldering, climbers scale as many fixed routes on a 4m-high wall as they can within four minutes. The routes vary in difficulty and climbers are not permitted to practise climbing them in advance. When a climber grabs the final hold at the top of a route with both hands, they are deemed to have completed it. Climbers tackle the wall without safety ropes and can try a route again if they fall during their initial attempt.”

 

How exciting that a sport that I have been involved in for decades is receiving international attention.

 

So where are the links between bouldering and success in maths? In short - attitude!

Outside the Olympic arena, climbers basically set themselves climbing problems that start from the bottom of a cliff, boulder, tree or climbing wall and, using certain holds, end at the top. If it is easy its solved on the first attempt. The more experienced will set themselves problems which can take many many attempts to top out - some projects can last months and there are, of course, many unclimbed problems left in the world.

 

At the local wall I see a set of like minded people who all love setting themselves a challenge. The best challenges are those that you aren’t sure whether you will succeed or not. There is a common practice of sharing ideas: try stepping up with your left foot here or turn your foot to face the other way. And there is a common theme of several attempts and plenty of jumping down/falling off. I purposely avoid the use of words such as failure and unsuccessful here.

 

So if you could take up bouldering you would be practicing (apart from all the obvious physical moves and how to fall properly) attitude - giving yourself a problem to solve. What a perfect mindset for maths. Or lets put it the other way - how maths can set you up for successful attitude in sport!