Getting Your Kicks from the World Cup

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Getting Your Kicks from the World Cup

June 25, 2014

We are a week into the World Cup, the giant competition where countries send their best soccer players (or football, as most countries call it) to try to win the top prize. The trophy is a ball, not an actual cup, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting to win it. To figure out which team is best, the countries are clumped into groups of 4, usually from 4 different continents, and each team plays the other 3; the 2 winningest teams from each group go on to the round of 16. At that point it becomes “single elimination”: you have to win each game to move on to the next. So the 16 teams chop down to 8, then down to 4 for the semifinals, then to the 2 great teams left for the big final game. It’s very, very hard to kick the ball into the goal and score, since the field is so huge, but this very cool chart shows all goals scored in any game since 1930, with a dot for each goal, lined up by the time in the game when they happened. Even with only 2 or 3 goals per game, with so many games over so many years, the excitement really adds up.

Wee ones: If you play a game against each of 3 teams, and you tie one game and win the rest, how many games do you win?

Little kids: If the U.S. becomes one of the teams in the round of 16, how many other teams are still in it with them?  Bonus: In the group games, a country gets 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss. In those 3 games, what’s the one total score between 0 and 9 that a country cannot get?

Big kids: There are 8 groups with 4 teams in each, but only one will be the final winner. How many teams won’t win the World Cup?  Bonus: The chart shows the 2,200 goals scored so far, and apparently Brazil scored 1/10 of them! If it’s exactly 1/10, how many goals has Brazil ever scored?




Wee ones: You win 2 games.

Little kids: 15 other teams.  Bonus: A total of 8. They can score any other total (e.g. 3=3+0+0 or 1+1+1…4=3+1+0…6=3+3+0 and so on).

Big kids: 31 teams.  Bonus: 220 goals.

And thank you Henry R. for the awesome scoring question!

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking while still in diapers, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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