# Maths Challenge

*Maths Challenge* is a BBC schools radio series from the 2000s and 2010s, covering Mathematics for primary school pupils.

A mental maths radio quiz for 9-11 year olds, with the questions set by a talking computer called Matrix, which interacts with the programme presenter. The radio programmes are designed to stimulate pupils ('to massage their maths muscle and turn them into mental maths masterminds') with a mix of quick-fire questions, engaging puzzles, music and sound effects. There was also a separate *Maths Challenge* TV series.

There have been two types of radio programmes. The *Mental Maths* programmes are wide-ranging quizzes with three rounds. The first round is always "beat the clock", quick-fire maths questions for general practice. In the first few *Mental Maths* units these questions cover a wide range of topics such as fractions and decimals, money and measurements as well as calculations, but in the 2007 unit they are specifically on the topic of each episode.

Round two involves more elaborate scenarios such as shopping, a visit to the fair, or an athletics competition, leading to multi-stage problem solving - which get longer and more involved towards the end of each term's worth of programmes. And round three is normally "juggling numbers", in which pupils are given several numbers and have to use different mathematical operations to reach a target number.

Early programmes also included a teaching section after the end of the quiz, in which the presenter gives advice on the topic of the episode.

The other type of *Maths Challenge* programmes are called *Mental Booster*. These again have a quiz with three rounds, but the questions are all set to provide extra practice on one particular topic.

All of the programmes were designed to encourage mental calculation. Pupils are allowed to write down the numbers that they hear in rounds 2 and 3, but the maths has to be done in their heads and only the final answer written down. The quick-fire questions in the first round only allow 2 seconds of thinking time so that mental calculation is essential.

The programmes were designed to be tape recorded and played back with the teacher in control. There are points in each episode where the programme should be paused, for example to add up the score at the end of a round, and teachers could also pause the recording to give their pupils more time to complete each question if necessary.

*Maths Challenge* was the first in a range of mental maths programmes introduced on BBC school radio in the late 1990s and early 2000s, soon followed by *Numbertime* for 5-7 year-olds and *Megamaths* for 7-9 year-olds. A *Maths Challenge* TV series was also made, retaining the quiz format but following the adventures of secret agent Matt Mattics instead of Matrix and a presenter.

The BBC used the same names for both the TV and radio series for each age group, but while *Numbertime* and *Megamaths* began as TV series, *Maths Challenge* was first heard on the radio and only appeared on television three years later. This site has a separate page about * Maths Challenge TV Workout*.

## Episodes

The title of each episode is the mathematical topic that it covers. Inevitably some titles were used more than once during the series. In this list, titles which occur more than once have a suffix indicating which unit they belong to - so "Multiplication (MM1)" is the Multiplication episode from *Mental Maths 1*, and "Multiplication (MM4)" is the Multiplication episode from *Mental Maths 4*.

# | Title | Broadcast |
---|---|---|

Mental Maths 1 | ||

1. | Multiplication (MM1) | 12 Jan 1999 |

2. | Division and Factors | 19 Jan 1999 |

3. | Addition and subtraction of the number 9 | 26 Jan 1999 |

4. | Adding and subtracting two-digit numbers | 2 Feb 1999 |

5. | Complementary addition (MM1) | 9 Feb 1999 |

6. | Rounding numbers up & down | 23 Feb 1999 |

7. | Calculating with large numbers (MM1) | 2 Mar 1999 |

8. | Multiplying with zeros | 9 Mar 1999 |

9. | Dividing tenths and hundredths | 16 Mar 1999 |

10. | Equivalent fractions | 23 Mar 1999 |

Mental Maths 2 | ||

1. | Multiplication (MM2) | 21 Sep 1999 |

2. | Division (MM2) | 28 Sep 1999 |

3. | Addition and subtraction (MM2) | 5 Oct 1999 |

4. | Calculating with two-digit numbers | 12 Oct 1999 |

5. | Complementary addition (MM2) | 19 Oct 1999 |

6. | Rounding and approximation | 2 Nov 1999 |

7. | Calculating with large numbers (MM2) | 9 Nov 1999 |

8. | Calculating with zeros | 16 Nov 1999 |

9. | Tenths and Hunderdths | 23 Nov 1999 |

10. | Fractions | 30 Nov 1999 |

Year 5 Mental Booster | ||

1. | Halving and doubling | 27 Apr 2001 |

2. | Multiples and Multiplying | 4 May 2001 |

3. | Tens and Hundreds | 11 May 2001 |

4. | Adding near multiples of 10 and 100 | 18 May 2001 |

5. | Subtracting near multiples of 10 and 100 | 25 May 2001 |

Mental Maths 3 | ||

1. | Multiplication and division bonds to 10 | 21 Sep 2001 |

2. | Fractions and dividing | 28 Sep 2001 |

3. | Zeroing in - large numbers | 5 Oct 2001 |

4. | Decimals (MM3) | 12 Oct 2001 |

5. | Doubles and halves | 19 Oct 2001 |

6. | Complements | 2 Nov 2001 |

7. | Rounding up and down | 9 Nov 2001 |

8. | Percentages (MM3) | 16 Nov 2001 |

9. | Working with large numbers | 23 Nov 2001 |

10. | Ordering numbers and number patterns | 30 Nov 2001 |

Year 6 Mental Booster | ||

1. | Number quickies | 17 Jan 2003 |

2. | Multiples and factors | 24 Jan 2003 |

3. | Special numbers | 31 Jan 2003 |

4. | Knowing fractions | 7 Feb 2003 |

5. | Divisions and fractions | 14 Feb 2003 |

6. | Percentages (Y6) | 28 Feb 2003 |

7. | Negative numbers | 7 Mar 2003 |

8. | Decimals (Y6) | 14 Mar 2003 |

9. | Equations | 21 Mar 2003 |

10. | Number knowledge | 28 Mar 2003 |

Mental Maths 4 | ||

1. | Addition and subtraction (MM4) | 12 Jan 2007 |

2. | Multiplication (MM4) | 19 Jan 2007 |

3. | Division (MM4) | 26 Jan 2007 |

4. | Fractions (MM4) | 2 Feb 2007 |

5. | Decimals (MM4) | 9 Feb 2007 |

6. | Percentages | 23 Feb 2007 |

7. | Rounding up and down (MM4) | 2 Mar 2007 |

8. | Big numbers | 9 Mar 2007 |

9. | Measurement | 16 Mar 2007 |

10. | All sorts of problems | 23 Mar 2007 |

## Credits

Presented by | Ralph van Dijk |

Produced by | Katriona MacEwan |

Mental Maths 1 written by |
Derek Farmer |

questions set by | Peter Patilla |

special effects & music composed by | Robin Lever |

sound engineerined by | Andy Hewitt |

Mental Maths 4 editor |
Andrew Barnes |

The voice of Matrix was provided by the presenter, with a computer-y filter to their voice.

## Broadcasts

The programmes were broadcast as part of BBC school radio's overnight transmissions on BBC Radio 3 FM and, later, BBC Radio 4 digital.

The first two series were broadcast on Tuesday mornings at 4:15am, but from Autumn 2000 onwards the series has been scheduled on Friday mornings and all subsequent series have been broadcast at various times in the early hours of Fridays.

Since 2005 the programmes have also been available to stream online from the BBC School Radio website for 7 days following the transmission of each episode.

A *Maths Challenge* podcast was launched in January 2010, allowing each episode of the series to be downloaded as an MP3 file in the week after its broadcast.

## Resources

### Activity Packs

A range of activity packs have been published to accompany the series, containing activities targetting "the trickiest areas of the maths curriculum". The packs can be used with or without the radio programmes. There are two packs in each series, one for 9-10 year-olds and the other for 10-11 year-olds.

- Maths Challenge Activity Pack 1, released spring 1999, ISBN 0-563-46272-8
- Maths Challenge Activity Pack 2, released autumn 1999, ISBN 0-563-46537-9

These initial packs contained a wire-bound activity book with photocopiable worksheets and an audio-cassette with ten 5-minute sections, complementing the teaching sections in the original radio series. The book and cassette were also sold separately.

- Calculations Activity Pack 1, released 2000, ISBN 0-563-54147-4
- Calculations Activity Pack 2, released 2000, ISBN 0-563-54146-6

Activity books with worksheets & teacher's activities were released in 2000. In 2001 these were collected into Activity Packs (with the same ISBN numbers) containing the books and a large poster to support "The Challenge Game". This game involves groups of children answering multiple-choice maths questions and trying to complete a line across the game board (the poster), which is like the board from the TV quiz show *Blockbusters'.*

- Problem Solving Activity Pack 1, released 2002, ISBN 0-563-54489-9
- Problem Solving Activity Pack 2, released 2002, ISBN 0-563-54490-2

A set of activity books and teaching cards.

- Year 5 Mental Booster Activity Book, released 2000, ISBN 0-563-54152-3
- Year 6 Mental Booster Activity Book, released 2002, ISBN 0-563-54488-0

Activity books with photocopiable activity sheets and teacher's notes, supporting the topics covered by the *Mental Booster* radio programmes.

Separate activity books were published to accompany the *Maths Challenge* TV programmes.

### School Radio Tapes

From 1999 to 2005 each term's radio programmes were available to purchase on cassette.

These were later supplanted by CDs, and then MP3 CDs, as well as online distribution.

## Links

## Sources & References

- BBC Primary Catalogues and Primary Timetables, 1998-2006
- BBC School Radio website
- and recordings of
*Mental Maths 1*,*Mental Maths 4*and*Year 5 Mental Booster*programmes

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Some random programmes for age 9-11 from the 2010s

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- Pages using DynamicPageList parser function
- Programmes