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Romania’s soccer team puts math problems instead of player numbers on jerseys

Uniforms that really make you think. (Robert Ghement/European Pressphoto Agency)
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The Romanian men’s soccer team recently took on a pair of noteworthy challenges. While it prepared for a friendly Sunday with powerhouse Spain, the squad also tried to help kids back home get excited about math.

Instead of putting the usual player numbers on the backs of its training jerseys, Romania substituted math problems, the solutions to which revealed those numbers.

The Romanian players wore jerseys with their usual numbers during the match against Spain, but the children who walked out with them for pregame introductions had the math-problem shirts on. Romania has one of the highest dropout rates, nearly 20 percent, in the European Union.

“Football and mathematics are not mutually exclusive,” said the Romanian Football Federation president, Razvan Burleanu (via The Guardian). “We must look at sports and education as not only complementary but fundamental elements integrated in the training and perfection of children. We want to have healthy generation and smart students who achieve performance and tools through tailored passions. Through this project, children will learn the basics of football and have an opportunity for the first time in our country — to discover mathematics through an attractive approach.”

The training jerseys are part of a program that aims to use soccer to make math more appealing to Romanian youngsters, who will also be asked to solve problems such as this one:

Romania has accumulated four wins and two draws in its World Cup qualifying group. If a win means three points and a draw means one point, how many points does the team have?

Kudos to Romanian officials for conceiving and carrying out this laudable project.