Racecourse maths lessons add up to fun

Tuesday 11th October 2016

It is a dramatic sporting arena alive with thundering hooves, colourfully-dressed jockeys and cheering punters.

But a seaside racecourse has also become an outdoor classroom for excited children learning about the sport – and the sums saddled up alongside it.

Forty nine pupils from Caister Junior School took their maths lessons to the track, parade ring and weighing room of Great Yarmouth Racecourse just a few furlongs from their desks.

They learned about weights and distances, did mental arithmetic and measuring, and even bumped into some star jockeys on their VIP day out.

It was part of a national Racing to School scheme which aims to introduce youngsters to the exciting world of horse racing, and show how the text book theory of their school subjects is relevant to the real world.

During the morning the Year 6 pupils, decked out in colourful racing “silks”:

  • Took to the scales in the jockeys’ weighing room to learn about racing’s “old fashioned” Imperial measures – and the strict weight limits for the riders.
  • Walked the track to find out about furlongs, how to convert them to metric and stood on the spot where photo finishes decide who has won by a nose.
  • Measured the parade ring to work out how many horses can safely walk around it before a race.
  • Used workbooks to learn more about jockeys’ kit and diet, the roles of racecourse staff – and some horse-based maths puzzles.

The visit was part of the charity-run initiative, which each year takes 10,000 youngsters to educational visits at racecourses, studs and training yards.

Lead education officer Ollie McPhail, a former jump jockey, said: “The main aim is to bring school subjects to life through a unique experience in an outdoor environment – and make children more aware of racing with a VIP visit going to places behind the scenes.

“We find that 70pc of children, even in racing centres like Newmarket, have never been to the races before. With secondary schools we also show the kind of careers racing can offer.”

The pupils also got close to the horses in the parade ring, watched two races, while a couple of lucky pupils had their picture taken with star jockey Frankie Dettori in the weighing room.

He praised the Racing to School scheme for getting youngsters introduced to the sport at a tender age, saying “I love it, because it is how I started – as a young boy going to the races with my father.”

Caister Junior maths lead teacher Kim Dyble said: “It is the third time we have been to the course to put our maths into a real environment on our doorstep. There is a lot of measuring and mental arithmetic, and one of the boys said to me ‘I can see why I do maths now’.”

Pupil Jack Bishop added: “It is learning maths in a fun way, and about all the different things that happen to prepare a race.”

And Great Yarmouth Racecourse executive director Glenn Tubby said: “We are keen to be part of the community and love having the children to visit, use our facilities and bring their lessons to life.”

Find out more about Great Yarmouth races – including its final meeting on October 18 - by visiting  www.greatyarmouth-racecourse.co.uk or call 01493 845556.

To get involved in a Racing to School session visit www.bhest.co.uk


Picture (TMS Media): Caister Junior School children in the parade ring with jockeys before the first race.