Maths Challenge

Maths Challenge TV Workout

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Maths Challenge TV Workout
Maths Challenge TV Workout Year 5 title.jpg
BBC Schools TV
First run:
9th January

19th March

Repeated until
5th February

(7 school years)
Episodes:18 episodes
Duration:10 minutes, 15 minutes
Subject:Mathematics: Mathematics
Audience:Age 9-11
Language:In English
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5 images from this programme


Dr Strangeglove, a megalomaniac with a secret headquarters on a glove-shaped island, hatches a variety of evil schemes to inflict mathematical chaos on the world. Debonair super spy Matt Mattics is hot on his trail, and Dr Strangeglove sportingly offers Mattics the chance to save the world by correctly answering a series of mental maths questions. Mattics has enlisted the help of seven-to-nine year-old special agents with specialist knowledge of topics like rounding and prime numbers to answer these questions for him.

The series brought the quick-fire mental maths quiz format, which had been successful in schools radio since 1999, to television for the first time, presented in thrilling spy adventures. The TV series was originally to be called Maths Challenge: Problem Solving. The Maths Challenge radio series did not feature Matt Mattics but instead had a presenter and a friendly maths computer setting the questions. Another contemporary schools radio series, Maths Adventure, did feature a character called Matt Mattic (no "s") in some of the programmes, but he was an enthusiastic young man travelling around the country in a Maths Mobile, rather than a secret agent.

Maths Challenge TV Workout was an engaging mix of several different elements. The characters were animated in two dimensions, and the environments animated in three dimensions. The special agents who answered questions for Matt were real children who came into the animated world as holograms on Matt's wrist-watch.

Matt and Year 5 special agents
Matt and Year 6 special agents

In the first series, for year 5 pupils, Matt Mattics was licenced to calculate by the HAMM agency: Help Against Muddled Mathematics. In the second series, for year 6 pupils, Matt was given a licence to chill by an organisation called Inter-Math, and received his missions from the lovely Miss Minny-Pinny, with whom he was hopelessly in love. Inter-Math's top secret headquarters, normally an innocent-looking ice cream van, self-destructed on Matt at the end of every episode. The series was full of references to other spy stories, especially the James Bond films.

Matt asked viewing pupils to answer Dr Strangeglove's fiendish questions alongside the special agents on TV, working out the answers in their heads then writing them down, and adding up their score when Dr Strangelove read out the right answers. Children could earn three possible ranks depending on their score: cadet, secret agent or master spy, and they had to earn a certain score to overcome Dr Strangeglove. The three special agents attempting each mission on TV tended to get different scores to reflect different ability levels, and they did not always get high enough scores to beat Strangeglove. Viewers were also set a mission at the end of each programme - a more difficult question to answer for next time.


Here is a guide to all of Dr Strangeglove's nefarious schemes, and the challenges that Matt and the Special Agents face!

TV Workout Year 5

10-minute long episodes for 9-10 year olds.

Num Title Archive Broadcast
1. Multiples and Factors BBC 9 Jan 2002
  Dr Strangeglove has stolen the microchip from the Maths Challenge computer and taken it to his island hideout. In order to get past Strangeglove's traps, Matt and the Special Agents have to answer questions on multiples and factors.
2. Fractions BBC 16 Jan 2002
  Strangeglove has taken over a space station and set up a number ray to destroy all the numbers in the world. Matt faces questions on fractions and quotients as he tries to get on board the space station.
3. Zeros BBC 23 Jan 2002
  Strangeglove sets up a maths muddler machine in the middle of the jungle, and Mattics' Special Agents must deal with multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000.
4. Decimals BBC 30 Jan 2002
  Strangeglove has stolen the mystical starlight diamond and hidden it near a volcano. He challenges the Special Agents to find the exact position of a probe on a number line showing tenths and hundredths, and round decimals to the nearest whole number.
5. Doubles and Halves BBC 6 Feb 2002
  Dr Strangeglove is trying the cut the underwater maths communications cable, and the Special Agents face questions on doubling and halving in an effort to stop him.
6. Complements BBC 27 Feb 2002
  Strangeglove is using a freezeamatic machine in the arctic to throw snowballs all over the world and freeze all of the numbers. The special agents defeat the machine by answering questions on complements to 100, but they still have to defrost the world's numbers by answering questions on complements to 1000.
7. Rounding Numbers BBC 6 Mar 2002
  Strangeglove makes time go backwards by turning an ancient wheel of time to minus. While Matt is running backwards and getting younger & younger, the Special Agents answer questions on rounding numbers and measurements.
8. Percentages BBC 13 Mar 2002
  Strangeglove has set up a maths number net (with 100 holes) to interfere with maths radio transmissions. The Special Agents attempt to answer questions on percentages and fractions.
9. Large Numbers BBC 20 Mar 2002
  Dr Strangeglove is trying to flood the world with large numbers, with a vacuum cleaner that changes small numbers into oversized ones. The Special Agents take multiple choice questions about adding on to large numbers. Strangeglove then turns his attention to a shrink ray, and the Special Agents have to multiply large numbers.
10. Integers BBC 20 Mar 2002
  Dr Strangeglove wants to take over the Maths Challenge theme park and sets up a number cruncher to destroy all the rides. The Special Agents must recognise integers and answer questions on negative integers involving Matt travelling on a lift which goes above and below ground.

TV Workout Year 6

15-minute long episodes for 10-11 year olds.

Num Title Archive Broadcast
1. Equations BBC 15 Jan 2003
  Dr Strangeglove has set up a huge machine in space, stealing all the numbers from Earth and using them to manufacture little boxes of fruit juice. Matt Mattics and the Special Agents must fill in the missing items in equations to save the world's numbers.

The mission begins with simple sums where missing numbers have been replaced by items of fruit, but once Matt boards the Number Juicer he faces full algebraic notation.

2. Shapes BBC 22 Jan 2003
  Strangeglove has built an evil radio transmitter in the desert which makes everybody in the world say the opposite of what they mean, interferring with Matt Mattics' attempts to flirt with Miss Mini-Pinny. Mattics and the agents must answer multiple-choice questions on 2-dimensional shapes
3. Percentages BBC 29 Jan 2003
  Dr Strangeglove has discovered the plug at the bottom of the ocean - and pulled it out! Mattics must get past killer sharks and escape Strangeglove's underwater clutches to replace the plug, by answering questions on percentages.
4. Fractions BBC 5 Feb 2003
  Strangeglove plots to generate electric storms from a cave high in the Alps, and Mattics and his agents face questions on equivalent fractions and mixed numbers.
5. Decimals BBC 12 Feb 2003
  Miss Mini-Pinny is kidnapped by Dr Strangeglove. Matt attempts to get her back by answering true or false questions on comparing decimal number and fractions. Later he tracks down Strangeglove's fairground headquarters and has to carry out mental calculations with decimals to distinguish the real Miss Mini-Pinny from Strangeglove's army of robot Mini-Pinnys.
6. 3D Shapes BBC 5 Mar 2003
  Strangeglove is mining diamonds on the moon and using them to construct a "number jumbler", which jumbles up all the telephone numbers on Earth. Matt gets trapped in the mining machinery and has to answer multiple choice questions on 3-dimensional shapes. Then he has to identify 3-dimensional shapes from their nets.
7. Number Patterns BBC 12 Mar 2003
  Dr Strangeglove has begun distributing gloves around the world. But these are strange gloves - which cause the wearer to forget how to do maths. Matt and the Special Agents must identify square numbers and prime numbers, and continue number sequences, in order to shut down the strange glove factory.
8. Measures BBC 19 Mar 2003
  Dr Strangeglove changes all the normal units of measure like metres, litres and grams into a new unit called the strangeglove.


Voices Jonathan Guy Lewis as Matt Matics & Dr Strangeglove (Year 5)

Jonathan Kydd as Matt Matics & Dr Strangeglove (Year 6)
Maddi Cryer as Miss Mini-Pinny

With Montana Thompson, Matthew Protheroe & Natalie Jones as Special Agents (Year 5)

Yasmin McKenzie, Lauren Smith, Anish Patel, Danielle Barwick & Simon Anderson as Special Agents (Year 6)

Maths Consultant Peter Patilla
Music & Sound Effects Derek Nash
Animation Director Ian Sachs
Studio Director Darcia Martin (Year 6)
Writer Simon Davies (Year 6)
Executive Producer Sue Nott
Producer Allan Burr


Activity Packs

Activity pack covers

Two activity packs to support using the programmes in the classroom. Each pack contains a 28-page teacher's book including ten weekly problems and 30 photocopiable activity sheets, plus two large colour posters and a set of 40 pictorial question and answer cycle cards (where each card has the answer to a different question on the back, and the whole class works together).

The packs originally cost £14.99 each.

There were also separate activity packs to accompany the Maths Challenge radio series.

Videos & DVDs

Video Plus packs

Each series was released as a Video Plus pack containing a video of the episodes and the relevant teacher's activity pack. The Video Plus Packs were originally £29.99 plus VAT. By the time the BBC started offering their schools programmes on DVD Plus packs Maths Challenge TV Workout was no longer on sale.

16 of the episodes (all except Percentages and Measures from the Year 6 series) were released on video and DVD in the United States and Canada.


Watch Online Watch on YouTube. A promo for a potential children's entertainment series about the adventures of Matt Mattics, with clips from both series of Maths Challenge TV Workout.

Sources & References

  • BBC (1999) BBC Primary Video Catalogue 1999-2000 for ages 4-11. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2000) BBC Primary Catalogue 2000-2001. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2001) BBC Primary Catalogue 2001-2002. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2002) BBC Primary Catalogue 2002-2003. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2003a) BBC Primary Catalogue 2003-2004. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2003b) BBC Television, Radio and Online for Primary Schools 2003-2004. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2004) BBC Television, Radio and Online Guide Primary 2004/2005. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2005) BBC Primary Guide 2005/2006. Wetherby: BBC Educational Publishing.
  • BBC (2006) BBC Active Primary Catalogue Summer 2006. Wetherby: BBC Active.
  • BBC (2007) BBC Active Primary Catalogue Spring 2007. Wetherby: BBC Active.

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