January Maths Challenge

Thanks to our guest blogger and Primary Mathematics Consultant Caroline Clissold for the following post

Algebra now appears as a section of its own in the Year 6 programmes of study. This makes it appear that this is the first time that the topic is introduced in the primary curriculum. In fact, as we know, from the EYFS, children experience algebra in the form of simple missing number statements, recognising and creating patterns and talking about differences and similarities.

In last month’s challenge we explored some ideas involving algebra for EYFS and KS1. In this month’s challenge we will explore some activities for KS2.

You could ask the children to solve missing number statements like these:

24 x n = 12 x 4

n x 25 = 150 ÷ 2

96 ÷ 6 = m ÷ 3

81 ÷ m = m ÷ 3

You could write a statement such as m + n = 20 and ask the children to come up with as many possible values for m and n. Encourage them to use negative numbers, fractions and decimals.

Issue 65 of the NCETM’s Primary Magazine has an article about algebra and some ideas for activities to explore with the children. Here are three of them:

A ball and a cube together weigh 170 grams



Three balls and two cubes weigh 420 grams



What is the weight of one cube?

(from the World Class Tests sample test questions)

The square and the circle represent two mystery numbers under 10




Which numbers could they be?

Use coloured rods (e.g. Cuisenaire) to explore equivalence and arithmetical relationships leading to the use of symbols. For example:




You could assign a colour a value and the children then need to work out what the values of the other colours are.

Once the children have explored this using the rods they could then use the bar model as a visual representation.

Nrich have many activities that you could explore with your class. Below are a few examples:

Crossed Ends

These crosses can be drawn on number grids of various sizes.








Add opposite pairs of orange numbers (i.e. north + south, east + west).
Notice anything? Try a few more.

Now try the same questions on crosses with two lines of symmetry, like these:







Letter Land


A + C = A

F × D = F

B – G = G

A + H = E

B ÷ H = G

E – G = F

and A-H represent the numbers from 0 to 7

Find the values of A, B, C, D, E, F and H.


The Fibonacci sequence is

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…

where each term is the sum of the two terms that go before it (i.e. 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5 and so on.)

What is the sixth term of the Fibonacci type sequence that starts with 2 and 38 as the first two terms?

How many Fibonacci type sequences can you find containing the number 196 as one of the terms where the sequence starts with two whole numbers a and b with a < b?

We hope you and your class will have some fun solving these algebraic problems and puzzles.



Assessment, Computing and ICT, CPD, English and Literacy, Geography, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation, History, Intervention and SEN, Languages, Mathematics, More able, PE, Reading and Ebooks, Revision and Practice, Science and Technology

Added to your basket: