Maths Challenge (radio)
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 "hot tips" teaching section after the end of the quiz, in which the presenter gives advice on the topic of the episode. This included rap music to remember times tables and other direct teaching suggestions
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 Quiz Videos
The original 2 units from 1999 were revived in 2012 in newly edited, 15 minute versions of the original 20 minute programmes.
In the era of digital broadasts and online streaming, messages invisting listeners to "stop the tape now and work out your final score" were snippd out. The "hot tips" sections following the quiz at the end of each episode was removed completely, which actually renders the episode titles moot - the quizzes in each episode cover general maths calculations each week but it was the "hot tips" sections that covered a particular topic. Nevertheless the cut-down episodes were still broadcast under their original titles.
The first 9 episodes, out of 10 from the very first unit, were also fully animated and made into classroom videos for the BBC website to further engage modern listeners. Matrix appears as a robot with arms and hands, and a screen for a mouth.
The videos use the edited, 15-minute versions of the episodes, with the 9th episode further edited to include the end-of-series announcements originally from episode 10. The episodes are re-titled with the subject of the scenario from round 2.
Full transcripts of these edited episodes are also available online.
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.
|1998-99||Mental Maths 1|
|1999-2000||Mental Maths 2||Mental Maths 1|
|2000-01||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 2||Year 5 Mental Booster|
|2001-02||Mental Maths 3||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 2||Year 5 Mental Booster|
|2002-03||Mental Maths 3||Year 6 Mental Booster||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 2||Year 5 Mental Booster|
|2003-04||Mental Maths 3||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 2||Year 5 Mental Booster|
|2004-05||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 2||Mental Maths 3||Mental Maths 3||Year 5 Mental Booster|
|2005-06||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 3||Year 5 Mental Booster||Year 5 Mental Booster|
|2006-07||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 4|
|2007-08||Mental Maths 4||Year 5 Mental Booster|
|2008-09||Mental Maths 4|
|2009-10||Mental Maths 4|
|2011-12||Mental Maths 1|
|2012-13||Mental Maths 2|
|2014-15||Mental Maths 1|
|2016-17||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 2|
|2017-18||Mental Maths 1||Mental Maths 2|
The title of each episode is the mathematical topic that it covers, in either the "hot tips" section or the overall quiz subject. Inevitably some titles were used more than once during the series.
|Mental Maths 1|
|1.||(1)||Multiplication||12 Jan 1999|
|2.||(2)||Division and Factors||19 Jan 1999|
|3.||(3)||Addition and subtraction of the number 9||26 Jan 1999|
|4.||(4)||Adding and subtracting two-digit numbers||2 Feb 1999|
|5.||(5)||Complementary addition||9 Feb 1999|
|6.||(6)||Rounding numbers up & down||23 Feb 1999|
|7.||(7)||Calculating with large numbers||2 Mar 1999|
|8.||(8)||Multiplying with zeros||9 Mar 1999|
|9.||(9)||Dividing tenths and hundredths||16 Mar 1999|
|10.||(10)||Equivalent fractions||23 Mar 1999|
|Mental Maths 2|
|11.||(1)||Multiplication||21 Sep 1999|
|12.||(2)||Division||28 Sep 1999|
|13.||(3)||Addition and subtraction||5 Oct 1999|
|14.||(4)||Calculating with two-digit numbers||12 Oct 1999|
|15.||(5)||Complementary addition||19 Oct 1999|
|16.||(6)||Rounding and approximation||2 Nov 1999|
|17.||(7)||Calculating with large numbers||9 Nov 1999|
|18.||(8)||Calculating with zeros||16 Nov 1999|
|19.||(9)||Tenths and Hunderdths||23 Nov 1999|
|20.||(10)||Fractions||30 Nov 1999|
|Year 5 Mental Booster|
|21.||(1)||Halving and doubling||27 Apr 2001|
|22.||(2)||Multiples and Multiplying||4 May 2001|
|23.||(3)||Tens and Hundreds||11 May 2001|
|24.||(4)||Adding near multiples of 10 and 100||18 May 2001|
|25.||(5)||Subtracting near multiples of 10 and 100||25 May 2001|
|Mental Maths 3|
|26.||(1)||Multiplication and division bonds to 10||21 Sep 2001|
|27.||(2)||Fractions and dividing||28 Sep 2001|
|28.||(3)||Zeroing in - large numbers||5 Oct 2001|
|29.||(4)||Decimals||12 Oct 2001|
|30.||(5)||Doubles and halves||19 Oct 2001|
|31.||(6)||Complements||2 Nov 2001|
|32.||(7)||Rounding up and down||9 Nov 2001|
|33.||(8)||Percentages||16 Nov 2001|
|34.||(9)||Working with large numbers||23 Nov 2001|
|35.||(10)||Ordering numbers and number patterns||30 Nov 2001|
|Year 6 Mental Booster|
|36.||(1)||Number quickies||17 Jan 2003|
|37.||(2)||Multiples and factors||24 Jan 2003|
|38.||(3)||Special numbers||31 Jan 2003|
|39.||(4)||Knowing fractions||7 Feb 2003|
|40.||(5)||Divisions and fractions||14 Feb 2003|
|41.||(6)||Percentages||28 Feb 2003|
|42.||(7)||Negative numbers||7 Mar 2003|
|43.||(8)||Decimals||14 Mar 2003|
|44.||(9)||Equations||21 Mar 2003|
|45.||(10)||Number knowledge||28 Mar 2003|
|Mental Maths 4|
|46.||(1)||Addition and subtraction||12 Jan 2007|
|47.||(2)||Multiplication||19 Jan 2007|
|48.||(3)||Division||26 Jan 2007|
|49.||(4)||Fractions||2 Feb 2007|
|50.||(5)||Decimals||9 Feb 2007|
|51.||(6)||Percentages||23 Feb 2007|
|52.||(7)||Rounding up and down||2 Mar 2007|
|53.||(8)||Big numbers||9 Mar 2007|
|54.||(9)||Measurement||16 Mar 2007|
|55.||(10)||All the problems||23 Mar 2007|
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.
|1998-99||Spring 1999||Tuesday, 4:15am||Radio 3|
|1999-2000||Autumn 1999||Tuesday, 4:15am||Radio 3|
|Spring 2000||Wednesday, 4:10am||Radio 3|
|2000-01||Autumn 2000||Friday, 4:20am+||Radio 3|
|Summer 2001||Friday, 4:05am||Radio 3|
|2001-02||Autumn 2001||Friday, 3:30am||Radio 3|
|Spring 2002||Friday, 3:30am+||Radio 3|
|Summer 2002||Friday, 3:15am||Radio 3|
|2002-03||Autumn 2002||Friday, 3:15am||Radio 3|
|Spring 2003||Friday, 3:30am||Radio 3|
|Summer 2003||Tuesday, 3:30am+||Friday, 3:00am+||Radio 3|
|2003-04||Autumn 2003||Friday, 3:15am||Radio 4*|
|Summer 2004||Tuesday, 3:30am+||Friday, 3:00am+||Radio 4*|
|2004-05||Spring 2005||Friday, 3:35am+||Radio 4*|
|Summer 2005||Friday, 3:00am+||Radio 4*|
|2005-06||Autumn 2005||Friday, 3:20am||Radio 4*|
|Spring 2006||Friday, 3:50am||Radio 4*|
|Summer 2006||Friday, 3:15am||Radio 4*|
|2006-07||Autumn 2006||Friday, 3:20am||Radio 4*|
|Spring 2007||Friday, 3:20am||Radio 4*|
|2007-08||Spring 2008||Friday, 3:20am||Radio 4*|
|Summer 2008||Friday, 3:50am||Radio 4*|
|2008-09||Autumn 2008||Friday, 3:45am||Radio 4*|
|2009-10||Spring 2010||Friday, 3:45am||Radio 4*|
|2011-12||Summer 2012||Thursday, 3:15am||Radio 4*|
|2012-13||Spring 2013||Friday, 3:30am||Radio 4*|
|2014-15||Autumn 2014||Friday, 3:30am||Radio 4*|
|2016-17||Autumn 2016||Thursday, 3:35am||Radio 4*|
|Spring 2017||Thursday, 3:30am||Radio 4*|
|2017-18||Autumn 2017||Thursday, 3:35am||Radio 4*|
|Spring 2018||Thursday, 3:35am||Radio 4*|
* - School Radio programmes were broadcast on Radio 4 Digital services only (not FM or LW analogue radio broadcasts).
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.
|Produced by||Katriona MacEwan|
|Mental Maths 1 written by||Derek Farmer|
|Consultant / 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.
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 Packs
- 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 Packs
- 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 Packs
- 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.
Mental Booster Activity Packs
- 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.
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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