Football Shirt Numbers: The Maths of World At Your Feet

by Rob Parker

When I was writing World At Your Feet I was aware that it could be useful in helping introduce children - and particularly boys - who don't normally read to books.

The latest key stage 2 results show that boys continue to trail girls when their reading and writing abilities are measured at the end of their primary education.

For boys who are into football, there is both a natural inclination and a well-worn narrative that football needs to consume their every waking moment (outside of which they should be cuddled up to a football in bed).

I hoped World At Your Feet might convince at least one young person that books don't have to be boring and can be about things they find interesting.

What I hadn't anticipated is that it would improve anybody's maths, but my two-year-old twins have recently been showing that it can.

World At Your Feet illustrator Lawerta added some beautiful detail to the football kits featured in the book, including the shirt numbers.

My daughters have taken to trying to identify the numbers they can see featured on the shirts of the players featured in the book.

As they start to get a grasp on counting, they have also started to tell me the number of players they can see on each page.

I'm sure they're not the only World At Your Feet readers doing this.

I know at least one other youngster is using the numbers in the book to good effect. Jamie Cottrell told the World At Your Feet Twitter account that his son using the shirt numbers to cross-reference with YouTube footage of the goals featured in the book to make sure his dad has identified them correctly.

These totally unintended and accidental uses of World At Your Feet as a learning tool have been some of the highlights of writing the book for me. I'd love to hear of any others.

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