Maths challenges suitable for KS2 need to be part of every primary school teachers toolkit of lesson resources. Some children will readily grasp the concepts being shown to them and will be ready to apply their strategies and understanding to further reasoning and problem solving questions.
But it can be difficult to find enough of a variety of challenges to really stretch some of the most able pupils we teach at KS2, as I found out with my Year 6!
Finding Maths Challenges For High Attainers at KS2
Usually, applying knowledge and using transferable skills is enough to keep a class ticking over; extending their understanding beyond number. But in some cohorts there will be a child who completes the ‘challenges’ we set with relative ease; they aren’t taken out of their comfort zone or rarely make mistakes.
This year I had a child like this in my class, and I found stretching his abilities a struggle as I didn’t have access to enough resources to give me, or him, variety.
I’d be helping one child grasp long multiplication – or something similar – when a shadow would loom over my shoulder. Turning around, he’d be there, telling me he had finished.Often, he had finished a ‘challenge’ which I was sure would last for the whole lesson. Looking at the clock, 40 minutes of the lesson remained.
His abilities stretched beyond any child I had previously had in my class. So, I reached out to Twitter to discover some new ways to include maths challenges for more able pupils in my lessons.I was especially looking for work which he could pick up and use independently, if he had managed to complete the tasks already set.
After the responses on Twitter, it was clear to see I wasn’t not the only person left scratching my head in this kind of situation, wondering what resources I can turn to.
So, to help you find even more challenges for your greater depth pupils quickly and easily, we’ve put together this list of activities, categorised for ease of use.
You can find the original tweet here. It’s worth a read; the thread is packed with lots more ideas than I was able to include on this blog!
Top 6 Maths Challenges For Primary School Pupils
1. I See Reasoning UKS2 – Gareth Metcalfe
Prep: Find the activity you want, photocopy (and maybe some guillotine-ing!)
Who it’s for: Although this is the Upper Key Stage 2 version, it is available for Lower Key Stage 2 too!
Cost: You will need to purchase the ‘I See Reasoning’ resources.
This resource is full of a huge range of activities which push children to think beyond numbers and begin to use mathematical language to explain.
Each activity requires children to display their understanding of what they have already learnt, and build upon their knowledge in order to describe what they notice or know.
This document covers the whole of the maths curriculum, including not only problems relating to number, but also geometry, shape and statistics.
I also love that this really clearly includes the answers, which makes it so simple to use!
Each activity has its merits, but the three I find particularly useful are:
Explain the Mistakes
Children are shown mistakes and are required to explain why the diagrams/calculations are wrong.
They must use mathematical language and previous knowledge to first understand, then explain their thinking to show what would need to change in order for there to be a correct solution.
This activity models to children how to link ideas and get them reasoning, building on what they know already.
Once they have seen this model in ‘I See Reasoning’ they will then begin to use this phrase within the classroom, not only when speaking to the teacher but also to their peers.
This activity requires children to understand that their can be different variations. They can then explain how they know that these answers all work, and why.
Child Review: This was challenging as when you understand number so easily, it can be trickier to explain exactly how you know a fact is true. There was some element of challenge because of the range of different activities.
Link: I See Reasoning
Prep: Just print and go! (Unless they’ve already done the challenge in a previous year group…!)
Who it’s for: There are activities for all primary age ranges.
I have to admit, this is my absolute go-to for mathematical challenges (as I’m sure it is for many of you out there!).
The huge range of challenges that are available can be easily searched so you can find the activity which is perfectly suited to the topic you’re doing,
They are also labelled with which age range the problem is most suited for (and can be adapted if you want to).
However, because Nrich is so popular I often find that the children have already accessed problems the previous year, meaning that inevitably they no longer pose any challenge to them, or it takes extra time to plan as you need to consult previous teachers.
My favourite challenge so far this year from Nrich is:
This activity really challenged my whole class. They worked in groups to discover the answer and there were cries of ‘noooo’ when we started running out of time for them to solve it (which inevitably led to another lesson being abandoned to let them have more time to work it out!)
This was an activity I thought would be completed quickly, but really challenged the all the children.
Child Review: This activity was really challenging as it used lots of logic. You had to use what you knew about number, use trial and error and really understand how the strategy works! I like these types of problems as they make me think.
3. Third Space Learning
Prep: Access to a computer and a headset.
Who it’s for: Years 2 to 7
Cost: Bespoke to each school, on average £15 per pupil per week.
Some of you might already be using Third Space Learning’s one-to-one online maths interventions with your lower attaining pupils or as part of your Pupil Premium budget. But these interventions can also be an excellent way of further stretching most able pupils.
Third Space’s highly targeted Initial Diagnostic Assessment identifies maths strengths as well as weaknesses. With higher attaining pupils, Third Space tutors can create lesson plans aimed at engaging and developing these strengths, introducing them to concepts and topics that will challenge and motivate them.
Third Space also provides an online Maths Hub full of resources, such as the one below, that you can use in lessons to continue challenging your more able pupils.
Child Review: “I enjoy coming here every Friday to do third space learning! It makes me happy every time i come to school!” – Katie, Third Space pupil
Link: Book a demo today (or call 0203 771 0095)
108 Greater Depth Questions for KS2 Maths Mastery
Download our set of 108 Greater Depth Maths Mastery questions for some free additional stretch and challenge for your more able pupils.
4. Peter Dickinson – Reasoning Club
Prep: Print and go!
Who it’s for: Year 5 and 6.
Cost: There is a cost for these resources. You will need to contact Peter directly to enquire.
Peter Dickinson has created a range of reasoning resources which really require children to think and apply their knowledge.
Each challenge explicitly targets a different aspect of maths, as well as requiring the children to transfer a range of different skills to help them solve the problem.
For example, in the ‘Multiplication Square’ children have to not only use multiplying knowledge, but also that of decimals and place value.
I’ve found that these reasoning word problems cover a lot of the curriculum, particularly number, which allow a really wide range of maths challenge for the class.
The best part of these, is that it’s really useful to laminate them within the classroom in order to use over and over again; because of the level of challenge, sometimes they don’t get finished and it enables the child to continue another time before passing them on to someone else.
Child Review: I really like that these are usually laid out in familiar ways and full of lots of different types of challenges. Some of them really make me think and use lots of logic – I enjoy that they actually challenge me!
Link: Peter can be found on Twitter at @2358Peter
5. Royal Institute of Science – Maths Masterclass
Prep: There are quite a few downloads to prepare for the session, but they also have PowerPoints to help with you explanation.
Who it’s for: Year 5 and 6, although they may also link to some topic work in a lesser capacity lower down.
I was really disappointed I hadn’t come across these resources before (thanks for the suggestion @Glazgow/@racheldorris1)!
They cover a range of topics including (but not limited to!) fractions, shape, number patterns and reflections.
Each of these are also linked to a science element (and in some cases, some history or art too!) providing a range of curricular links you can also build into your lessons.
Each ‘off the shelf’ lesson is fully planned and resourced for you, which means it is easy to prep for the children (although I do recommend reading through it all first – some lessons have quite a few downloads you need to use whereas some need equipment!).
The topics are all very interesting and are some you may not come across or think of having not discovered them on the Royal Institute of Science site. One example of this is creating colours through using fractions and proportion.
These sorts of cross-curricular activities are also excellent evidence to show off during Ofsted inspections!
Child Review: These challenges are really interesting because they involve different parts of the curriculum too! We have only done one of these, but I really look forward to doing more!
Prep: Some printing may be required!
Who it’s for: KS2 – there are a range of different challenges.
This resource was kindly suggested by @ianr73 and I am very glad it was! Transum has a range of features which are really useful to use in class.
Firstly, they have a range of daily challenges which are puzzles for the children to complete and challenge a different area of their maths knowledge each day.
In this example, it focuses on time and has a range of different examples for them to work on. I have this on my board at some point each day to expose the class to new ideas and maths puzzles!
Also, as you might expect, they have a range of maths challenges on their site too. There are a wide range of problems to choose from – I found them to be quite like Nrich in their style which meant they were easy to begin using in the classroom.
There were also the options of outdoor maths, riddles and a range of online maths games to use too!
Child Review: I really enjoy the daily maths puzzle that we can have as it shows lots of different types of maths I might not otherwise get to see. The challenges are fun, and can be done in different ways too.
Favourite Maths Challenges Recommended By Primary School Teachers
Gone through all of the challenges above and still need more? These are some of the other maths challenges that were recommended on the Twitter thread:
7. NACE (National Association for Able Children in Education)
What it is: An association which specifically focuses on how to challenge more able children in a range of different ways.
8. Maths Bot
What it is: These are a range of maths challenges in different formats (including exam style questions) which can be used in different year groups (as well as going through Secondary).
Link: Maths Bot
9. Craig Barton – Same Surface Different Deep
What it is: These problems are based around the concept that children should be revisiting different areas of maths constantly. If they do problems based around just the topic being studied they aren’t effectively applying their knowledge.
10. Dr Frost Maths
A range of problem solving activities which children can use to extend their reasoning understanding.
Link: Dr Frost Maths
11. White Rose
What it is: A scheme of work which moves from fluency to reasoning in all areas of the maths curriculum.
Link: White Rose Maths
12. Parallel Maths
What it is: These are challenges which are used to stretch children. They are aimed for Year 7 up, but might be used to stretch children in Year 6 as an extra ‘weekly challenge’ if the topic matches!
Link: Parallel Maths
13. TED Airplane Riddle
What is is: A riddle which children will need to apply their knowledge and maths logic to solve the problem.
Link: The TED Airplane Riddle
14. Times Tables App
What it is: A challenging app to speed up times table recall knowledge, which can be done on a phone or tablet.
15. Fibonacci Rabbit Sequence
What it is: This is using mathematical discovery (trial and error) rather than allocation of knowledge. It is a really good challenge for children (especially Year 5/6 )
Link: Fibonacci Rabbit
16. Open Middle
What it is: A site that promotes problem solving over worksheets, allowing children to work in a more practical manner.
Link: Open Middle
17. Daily Rigour Articles
What it is: This is a free newspaper that puts maths problems into a real life context. It is full of interesting ideas to get children using challenge!
Link: The Daily Rigour
18. Total Maths
What it is: Tara Loughran (@MathsMummy) is a maths consultant who has created a range of problem sheets which stretch children across a range of topics in the maths curriculum.
Link: Total Maths
19. Maths in Sport
What it is: A range of maths problems which are also linked to sport. Curated by University of Cambridge, it covers KS1 and KS2!
Link: Maths In Sport
20. Wild Maths
What it is: This is a similar site to Nrich which has a range of activities, stories and maths puzzles to challenge your children.
Link: Wild Maths
21. Mastering Mixed Ability Maths
What it is: A free Third Space Learning resource with 8 mastery-based maths activities, all designed to be ‘low threshold/high ceiling’ – relatively easy to pick up, but with lots of room to stretch more able pupils.
Maths Challenge Books
A few books were suggested for Maths Challenges too!
- Maths No Problem
- Kjartan Poskit books – Murderous Maths
- Alex’s Adventures in Numberland – Alex Bellos
- The Number Detective: 100 Number Puzzles to Test Your Logical Thinking
These activities have really allowed me to further the challenge within maths lessons (and even during particular topics!) within the classroom.
Having a wider range of challenge resources makes it much easier to ensure that you are deepening maths mastery in a way which is meaningful and encourages children to use logic.
To find more challenges you can use with the greater depth children in your class, check out these other TSL blogs: