5 tips to help parents support children preparing for the Year 6 mathematics tests

If you have a child in Year 6 you may be thinking about ways to help them prepare for the mathematics tests in May. In this blog, I’ve put together 5 tips to help parents support their children and have included some examples of where the Achieve series can be really helpful.

1. Revisit key facts

  • The tests draw from all of Key Stage 2 and build on Key Stage 1 learning so it is vital you spend time rehearsing some of the key mathematics facts that your children will need.         
  • The ‘What you need to know’ feature in Achieve helps to raise the profile of facts and skills that may have been forgotten over time. Here is an example about length:

What you need to know feature

You could use the information panel and ask your children some quiz questions about it e.g.

  • Which is longer, 1 kilometre or 900 metres? How do you know?
  • How many millimetres is equivalent to 2 centimetres? How do you know?
  • Questions that draw from Lower Key Stage 2 often see lower success rates. Here is an example that assessed Year 3 knowledge but only just over 50 percent of Year 6 children answered this correctly. The stumbling block wasn’t due to the actual calculation, but to insecure knowledge about the number of days in each month.

Number of days question

2. Make fact files

  • Making fact files with your children can really help them remember facts and so fluently recall them when required. Again, the ‘What you need to know’ feature can be used to help create these and children can include other facts that they know. Here is an example of part of a fact file:

Maths fact file

3. Rehearse multiplication and division tables

  • Many areas of mathematics are reliant on secure understanding of multiplication and division. Take working with fractions, for example. When children need to find common denominators for addition or subtraction, they must draw on their knowledge of common multiples. When they need to simplify a fraction, they are drawing on knowledge of common factors. 
  • This example about scaling problems from Achieve also helps children to make connections to multiplication:

Scaling question

  • Therefore, regular practice of multiplication and division facts is vital so that children can fluently recall and apply all related facts e.g. 6 x 9 = 54, 54 ÷ 9 = 6, 9 x 6 = 54, 54 ÷ 6 = 9. They can also make connections to place value, as in the following example from the arithmetic paper, where we can see that 5400 ÷ 9 is 54 hundreds divided by 9 which equals 6 hundreds.

Arithmetic question

4.  Encourage children to describe numbers in different ways

  • Describing whole numbers in different ways and thinking about their position in the number system gives children skills for both estimating and calculating. Work together with both whole numbers and decimal numbers and see how many different ways you can describe them e.g. for 445, we can say that it is:
  • made up of the place value parts 4 hundreds, 4 tens and 5 ones
  • also 445 ones or 4 hundreds and 45 more ones or 44 tens and 5 more ones etc.
  • 10 times the size of 44.5 but one-tenth of the size of 4450 or 10 times as small
  • 5 less than 500 or 5 less than double 250 or 5 less than one-quarter of 200
  • a little less than halfway between 400 and 500 on a number line but is exactly halfway between 440 and 450 etc.

5. Focus on mathematical language and reading

  • Questions on the reasoning papers can be wordy with a lot of information to process. Use the example questions from any of the books in the Achieve series and ask questions, such as: What is the problem about? Which words or information are important? Focus on identifying what needs to be done before even starting to think about doing the maths.

Achieve Revision Book example

Remember that you can also find lots of top tips for children in the Achieve series.

Steph King is a mathematics education adviser and author with more than 25 years’ experience in primary education, including senior leadership, subject leadership and 10 years as mathematics adviser for a local authority, before working independently in her own company, AK Mathematical Solutions Ltd. 

Steph is an NCETM Professional Development Accredited Lead and writes and presents CPD for schools. She has also been involved in national events for NACE, Rising Stars UK and UKLA. 

Steph is an author for publishers Hodder Education, Rising Stars UK, Harper Collins, Pearson, Oxford University Press (OUP), MacMillan Education, GL Assessment and Keen Kite. She works on both national and international writing projects.


Achieve, key stage 2, ks2, Mathematics, Maths, national curriculum, revision, sats

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