8 Reasons Great Arithmetic Skills Are Key For KS2 SATs – Free Arithmetic Practice Resource!

Excellent arithmetic skills (developed through consistent practice) can play a key part in helping pupils succeed in the KS2 SATs. 

Here are our insights into why arithmetic matters, plus tips on how your class can practise their arithmetic skills daily to achieve success in SATs – not just in the arithmetic paper but for the reasoning papers too!

Why Arithmetic Is Important

While they are essential for success in the arithmetic SATs 2024 paper, strong arithmetic skills are also of great benefit for the reasoning papers too.

If you’re already persuaded about the importance of daily arithmetic practice and are just looking for a free resource to help you do it, download the first 6 weeks of  Fluent in Five for years 3, 4, 5, 6  – daily arithmetic questions that you can use at the beginning of a lesson to help create numerical fluency at primary.

If you want all 36 weeks of Fluent in Five for Key Stage 2 plus our newest resource Fluent in Five for Key Stage 1, find out about our all our maths resources here.

Below we explore 8 reasons why it is important to focus on teaching excellent KS2 arithmetic skills through daily arithmetic practice, and how to get it ‘right’.

1. Arithmetic Skills Are Essential Building Blocks For Maths

Think of an area of Maths. Chances are that alongside a solid conceptual understanding, you’ll need good arithmetic skills to more fluently solve problems in that area.

Fractions, percentages, ratio, measures, and statistics. These are all areas where confident arithmetic skills are essential to help pupils use more efficient methods.

All of these topics are covered in our Fluent in Five resource, and we recommend using it at the beginning of a maths lesson to help get pupils in the right mindset to develop their skills.

2. Arithmetic Is A Key Life Skill for Adults and Children

Arithmetic skills are used by adults and children alike throughout their daily lives., not just in maths tests! Have a think about what you have done so far today: it’s almost certain that you will have used some form of mental arithmetic.

  • Did you work out how much longer you’ve got until you need to get out the house this morning?
  • Maybe you looked at your speedometer to work out how much to reduce or increase your speed by?
  • Or you might have worked out how many children were absent from your class this morning.

If you’ve done any of these things, you have used arithmetic. We constantly rely on these skills in daily life, without even realising it, and this is why it’s so important to build those skills early on.

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Fluent in Five Years 1-6 (Weeks 1-6)

Use on a whiteboard or print out our SATs style questions, complete with progression document & optional scaffolding helps pupils choose mental or written method

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3. Developing Conceptual Understanding Of Arithmetic Saves Time On Calculations

Developing a conceptual understanding of arithmetic is hugely important. After all, for pupils to confidently carry out calculations, they need to understand why calculations work, not just the steps to a successful answer.

This is why it’s important that rote learning activities such as times tables chants are combined with teaching of mathematical concepts. We want to encourage pupils to see that maths is an interconnected subject, rather than just a set of facts to learn.

When pupils have a conceptual understanding of their arithmetic skills, they are more likely to be able to work out questions mentally, saving all-important time.

Free resources like our Fluent in Five weekly packs can be used to help pupils make quick decisions about when to use the mental method and save time in exam situations.

4. Confidence In Arithmetic Helps Pupils To Flexibly Approach Maths Problems

Combined with conceptual understanding, confidence in arithmetic gives pupils the flexibility to tackle problems in different ways .

For example, if you ask pupils to double 36 in their heads, and then explain to their partner how they did it, you’ll witness many different approaches.

Some may double 30, double 6 and add the results. Others might double 40 and take away 8. Some might even double 35 and add 2.

Of course, there is no ‘best’ way in Maths. Yet, understanding the ways that Maths is connected and having true fluency in arithmetic helps children to understand and approach almost any problem.=

How Third Space Learning Maths Interventions Support Pupils With Arithmetic

Our personalised, one-to-one online interventions are geared toward helping pupils fill gaps in their maths knowledge, so that they become more confident and capable mathematicians right from the fundamentals.

Our initial Diagnostic Assessment identifies each pupil’s specific learning needs so we can create a lesson plan tailored to them, and delivered by our subject specialist tutors.

Every lesson starts with an arithmetic warm up, and only when these concepts are secure do the tutors move on to the more challenging reasoning and problem solving activities. Moreover, our SATs Revision program uses our Curriculum Team’s in-depth analysis of past SATs papers, practice papers and our own lessons to provide even more focused tutoring on the topics most likely to appear in the SATs.

Best of all, our detailed weekly reports help you stay up to date with everything your pupils are learning, from place value to long division and everything in between.

Example pupil learning progress report
An example of a Third Space pupil progress reports from our 1-to-1 tuition sessions.

5. The SATs Arithmetic Paper Is Highly Weighted In the KS2 SATs

In the Key Stage 2 SATs, the Year 6 Arithmetic test accounts for 36% of a child’s overall KS2 Maths SATs raw score. That’s 40 out of 110 marks!

In 2018 for example, only 55.4% (61 out of 110 marks) was required to meet the expected standard and gain a scaled score of 100.

When schools analyse their SATs results breakdown they often find that children that score well in the Arithmetic Paper are more likely to score well in their Reasoning Papers. Therefore, they achieve expected standard.

6. Arithmetic Skills Are Also Needed To Succeed In The KS2 Reasoning Papers

There are also a high proportion of arithmetic focused marks in the KS2 Reasoning Papers.

A large number of questions in SATs tests assess reasoning through arithmetic focused content objectives, and this doesn’t count questions which primarily cover another area (e.g. percentages, measures, number properties) but contain an arithmetic element.

For SATs practice tests that provide realistic representations of these questions, download our 6 Free SATs Papers (2 Arithmetic Tests and 4 Reasoning Tests for Year 6, answer sheets included).

7. Pupils Need To Correctly Identify And Apply Written/Mental Maths Strategies For The KS2 Arithmetic Paper

With the test paper designed to include squared working areas after each question, pupils often take up time time carrying out mental questions using a written method. As such, they’re not able to complete the full paper – when they might be fully capable of answering the final questions!

Clearly, having a level of ability in arithmetic that allows pupils to identify (and correctly apply) written/mental arithmetic methods is key to fully accessing KS2 Arithmetic Paper 1.

Use our in-depth Fluent in Five daily arithmetic practice packs to help your pupils develop the fluency and speed required to complete the full arithmetic paper (and identify between written and mental methods).

8. Maths Arithmetic Skills Need Regular Practice To Maintain True Fluency

This isn’t a “why” arithmetic is important, so much as how to best to teach it.

Pupils need to be using their arithmetic skills each and every day in order for them to maintain the confidence and fluency needed to successfully tackle their exams.

How To Improve Arithmetic Skills

Alongside the Fluent in 5 Arithmetic pack, there are a number of simple things you can do to in your classroom to help your pupils improve their skills even before their Year 6 arithmetic lessons. They are:

1. Ensure pupils’ grasp of the core mathematical concepts is solid

Without truly understanding the reasoning behind some of the most basic concepts in maths, pupils will likely struggle to truly improve and eventually develop complex arithmetic skills. Following the CPA approach is key to this.

2. The use of correct maths terminology in the classroom is vital

There are a lot of complicated and similar sounding words in the world of maths, and it is important that pupils do not have the chance to get jumbled as it could eventually lead to a wrong answer.

Find out why maths terminology is so important in KS1 and KS2, and how to teach pupils the maths vocabulary they will need with this Ultimate Maths Vocabulary List.

3. Use a variety of maths teaching techniques to help develop arithmetic skills

Change it up in the classroom if you are looking to cement this knowledge in your pupils!

Some might need a bar model to embed understanding, some will need more scaffolding, but there’s always a way in. And when the penny drops, their scores will go up!

If you have an example of a lesson or technique that you have found to be extremely useful when teaching arithmetic, let us know via Twitter and we will share it.

4. Include arithmetic practice in everyday situations to improve skills

Learning maths in the classroom is all well and good, but it will have much more relevance to your pupils if they are able to apply it to an everyday situation.

This will ensure pupils are not scared of maths out in the real world, from working out how much money they have in their savings account through to how many chocolate bars they can get with their pocket money! Why not make this the focus for your maths clubs next year?

5. Avoid maths tricks 

We all know some ‘clever’ maths tricks that can provide a quick fix for some arithmetic questions but be careful how you use them.

Generally we advise our own tutors and teachers to avoid these maths tricks as they don’t help to build understanding and in some cases can just embed misconceptions.

Looking for more ways to prepare your Year 6 for SATs for the next year?

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Every week Third Space Learning’s specialist primary maths tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1 to 1 maths lessons designed to plug gaps and boost progress.


Since 2013 these personalised one to one lessons have helped over 150,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians.


Learn about the SATs revision programme or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.


FREE Year 6 Survival Pack

A selection of fun activities to use with your Year 6 class after SATs plus our most downloaded free SATs resources to support next year's cohort.

Includes KS2 maths games and investigations and our most popular resource, Fluent in Five!

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