At school

Maths is an extremely important school subject. At school maths is usually taught in specific lessons, but children practise and use their maths throughout the school day. This advice will help you to make sense of the different terminology used and understand how maths is taught.

So here are ten important things to know about maths at school:

1. Maths content

Most schools have to follow an agreed curriculum in the teaching of maths. Follow these links to find out more:

  • England: The National Curriculum
  • Wales: A National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (5 to 14 year olds).
  • Scotland: Curriculum for Excellence
  • Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Curriculum.

In England, a new National Curriculum programme of study for mathematics was introduced in September 2015. Alongside this, new key stage 1 and 2 SATs were introduced.

2. Different ways to teach and learn maths at school

Maths will normally be taught on a daily basis, in a timetabled lesson, but children practise and use their maths throughout the school day.

From the outset, there will be a lot of focus on developing basic maths skills, such as times tables and remembering basic addition and subtraction facts, for example, 9 – 6 and 4 + 6. Teachers often set aside part of each lesson to devote to this learning.

3. Different calculation methods

There are a variety of different methods used in schools today. You may hear terms such as partitioning and place value. See the Jargon buster for further explanation of these terms and methods. Whatever method your child is taught at school, lots of practice at home using numbers and times tables in fun activities will be a great help. Our Fun activities section is full of maths games you can play together.

4. Maths resources

Your child's school will probably use a number of different resources to help support children in their learning. Used effectively, these can really help your child enjoy their maths lessons and improve their learning. Along with textbooks, workbooks, worksheets and computer software, children may use practical, tactile resources to help them in their learning.

The concrete-pictorial-abstract (CPA) approach to teaching mathematics involves first introducing a skill by acting it out with real objects, then relating this hands-on experience to pictorial representations, and finally abstracting the situation using numbers and mathematical symbols. The ‘concrete’ stage could involve any everyday objects to be sorted and categorised. Other resources used to make mathematics more tangible in this way include unit cubes, number rods, number squares and number lines.

Numicon is a multi-sensory programme that uses lots of maths equipment such as Numicon shapes, to help children think, talk and investigate maths. Numicon helps children understand number ideas and number relationships which is essential for success in maths, from pattern and algebra to calculation. Children using Numicon learn maths in a hands-on way with lots of talking, experimenting and making connections. This leads to them feeling confident and enthusiastic about maths.

Find out more about Numicon>

Maths Makes Sense provides a clear whole-school approach to maths. It has a unique learning system that makes maths easy for children to understand. The learning system makes consistent use of tangible objects such as cups, cards and sticks, combined with exaggerated physical actions and a special vocabulary for each symbol. Maths Makes Sense children have an active, spoken and visual image of each maths concept, which completely embeds understanding.

Find out more about Maths Makes Sense>

MyMaths Primary is a fully interactive online maths tool for primary school children of all ages and abilities. With a range of engaging games, lessons and randomly generated homework questions, MyMaths provides children with nearly limitless practice to hone their maths skills and 24-hour access to content allows them to explore and revise concepts at their own pace.

Find out more about MyMaths Primary>

5. Measuring Progress

As part of the reform of the National Curriculum, the old system of levels has been removed. Your child’s school will develop their own system for monitoring progress. If you have any questions about how your child’s progress is being monitored, speak to their teacher.

6. Linking maths to literacy skills

At school, the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing are practised in all areas of the classroom, including maths lessons. Developing these skills helps children to embed their maths learning, improve their use and understanding of maths vocabulary and create a strong foundation for problem-solving skills. You can help develop these skills at home by using number words regularly in everyday situations and asking your child maths-related questions and listening to them explain their thinking. For example, ask: 'How many footsteps do you think it might be from here to the end of the street? How did you decide on that number?'

7. Problem Solving

The ability to solve problems and think mathematically is important in everyday life. Your child will meet all sorts of word and number problems, puzzles and investigations during maths lessons. Many of these will relate to real-life situations. Children can find it quite tricky to work out what kind of calculation is needed when they are faced with a real-life maths problem. Help them develop their problem-solving skills by encouraging them to explain their thinking to you whenever they are working with problems. This is also a great opportunity for them to practise their speaking and listening skills

8. Home/School links

Communicate with your child's school so you understand what your child is learning. You can:

  • attend curriculum meetings to hear about how the school teaches maths and how you can best help at home.
  • read the school prospectus or look on the website for more information about the wider curriculum. Use your school's communication book to send in messages about your child or home.
  • speak to the class teacher after school if you have a very quick query or concern.
  • wait for open evenings or parent consultation meetings for one-to-one meetings with your child's teacher.
  • book an appointment if you have an urgent concern and need a little bit more time to discuss it.
  • offer to help in the classroom or school if you can; teachers love to have extra support.

9. Technology

Using and learning about technology is a part of both structured and independent maths learning. Children will learn using a variety of resources, from using an interactive whiteboard to work with the whole class, through to working individually, in pairs or in small groups using different computer software programs and tablets. Children will also use technology to present their work. Many areas of the new Computing section of the National Curriculum features maths related content. Find out more.

10. Assessing Progress

At key stage 1 and key stage 2, children will take SATs tests to assess their progress in maths. For more information, visit our SATs page.

Follow the links below to get more detailed information about how progress in maths is assessed across the UK:

Print this page

Choose an age group: