Everything You Need To Teach Year 2 Mental Maths

In Year 2 mental maths, children are really starting to hone their mental maths skills, building on prior learning from EYFS and Year 1. As well as working towards the Key Stage 1 SATs, children are gaining confidence in the four main operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (although they may only know these last two as doubling and halving to start with).

Maths in Year 2

In Year 2, maths lessons likely include a 10 minute mental maths practice session. This may incorporate elements of rote learning (of times tables for example), mental maths games or quick quizzes to test rapid recall of known facts. These would be based on prior learning and this daily check supports the practice of retrieving that information regularly. Although rote learning plays a part, this will build on conceptual understanding – taught with manipulatives (physical resources such as cubes or beads) in the main part of a lesson. 

What the national curriculum says about Year 2 mental maths

The National Curriculum for England states that, “The principal focus of mathematics teaching in key stage 1 is to ensure that pupils develop confidence and mental fluency with whole numbers, counting and place value. This should involve working with numerals, words and the four operations, including with practical resources [for example, concrete objects and measuring tools]”.

Specifically, Year 2 pupils are expected to “recall and use multiplication and division facts for the 2, 5 and 10 multiplication tables” and “recall and use addition and subtraction facts to 20 fluently, and derive and use related facts up to 100”. Although, mental maths is not simply about recalling facts, but is focused on the understanding of the workings out required, and being able to apply known facts appropriately. 

Year 2 SATs tests do not have a separate mental maths paper but by the end of Year 2 they will use their mental maths to help them with answering maths questions. 

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Year 2 mental maths: number bonds

In Year 2 children will need to know their number bonds to 20 and know doubles up to 20. They will need to add on in steps of 2, 3 and 5 from 0, as well as in steps of 10 from any number. Adding one-digit numbers to two-digit numbers is usually first taught in ways such as using physical counters. Strategies such as ‘keeping the big number in your head and counting on to add the small number’ are introduced as part of the mental maths strategies in Key Stage 1.

Addition and subtraction facts to 20 are also important in children’s mental maths capability. They would also need to know how to add near doubles i.e. 5 + 4. 

The following table includes some other key number facts to work on before Year 3. Although you would not expect children in Key Stage 1 to undertake a lot of formal mental maths tests, rapid recall is important so these will be practised regularly. 

year 2 mental maths recall chart
Number facts children should know by the end of Year 2

Year 2 mental maths: place value

During Key Stage 2, pupils need to learn the place value for numbers up to 100, and should recognise the place value of any digit in a two-digit number. They should also be able to use place value to solve a range of simple maths problems. This knowledge will continue to be built on in Year 3 and as they learn more about place value in KS2. 

Mental maths worksheets have a place within mental maths strategies too and form the building blocks which help children to have a concrete understanding of the mental maths strategies they are using. We have ten KS1 and KS2 place value games available as printables for teaching place value which include lesson ideas and manipulative recommendation to support mathematical understanding.

Year 2 mental maths: addition and subtraction

Children are expected to learn partitioning of numbers to help them with addition and subtraction. This will support adding 1 digit numbers added to 2 digit numbers, for example 26 + 3. Pupils are required to fluently use addition facts and subtraction facts up to 20 and work with related facts up to 100. 

Addition and subtraction understanding builds firmly on children’s secure knowledge of number bonds and place value. A multitude of written methods are introduced when teaching addition and subtraction at Key Stage 2. Written methods help to apply mathematical knowledge to bigger numbers, and pupils’ mental maths confidence grows alongside this developing understanding of the concepts behind the operations. 

year 2 mental maths addition and subtraction question slide
Example of a Third Space Learning Year 2 maths intervention slide focussing on the concept of addition and subtraction as inverse operations

Year 2 mental maths: multiplication and division

An understanding of multiplication and division usually starts with doubling and halving in Year 1 and this continues into Year 2 where times tables are also practiced for the 2, 5 and 10 times tables. Rapid recall of times tables facts helps to reduce the cognitive load when pupils are applying number facts to solve worded problems. 

It is important for Year 2 to understand that multiplication is a form of repeated addition – adding together equal groups – as this is often the first building block for learning about times tables, following on from doubling. Early understanding of this concept in Key Stage 1 will save Key Stage 2 teachers from later trying to fix misconceptions. 

Read more: How to Teach Times Tables So Pupils Learn Instant Recall From KS1 To KS2

Year 2 mental maths: fractions, percentages and decimals

Fractions in Year 2 will often be taught in terms of physical ‘sharing’ of items such as cake or pizza. Teaching resources can include paper plates cut into fractions.  Manipulatives will also be used to look at ‘sharing’ out a number of items. 

Although mental maths is assumed to mean simply “working out in your head” i.e. not using any paper or pen or physical objects, there is a lot of ‘concrete’ practice required to ensure that mathematical understanding goes past simple rote learning and regurgitation. A maths assessment should include checking that pupils fully understand the concept behind the pure numbers. 

Understanding fractions in Year 2 ensures that later in their primary school years pupils can apply this solid understanding to decimals and percentages

The importance of mental maths skills in Year 2 problem solving

We know that children typically find reasoning questions the hardest to answer in Year 6 SATs and this is often due to not enough practice from an early point. Reasoning questions, even at the simplest level, help to assess the true understanding of maths concepts. It is the application of the knowledge which really ‘tests’ that children know that which cannot be learnt simply by memorising the answer sheet. 

Multi-step word problems come in even in early mental maths and even in the home i.e. “How much does this cost and will I be able to afford that other toy as well as this one?” In a real life setting children are used to thinking about more than one step, although the practice of doing this in the more ‘abstract’ classroom practice relies on a solid understanding of number, alongside appropriate examples which relate to the experiences of the pupil. 

Read more: 2-Step Word Problems and Multi-Step Word Problems in KS2 Maths

Year 2 mental maths challenges

As with all maths challenges all the way to Key Stage 2, any tasks should stretch a child and move past their comfort zone, without removing confidence by expecting a level of number skill they have not reached. It should be an opportunity to apply known number facts but in ways which extend their use of those facts, use rapid recall, and think beyond the tasks which have been modelled by the teacher already in a lesson. 

Mental maths challenges might involve applying known number facts to a new area such as time, or measurement. It may involve also looking at number sentences with missing numbers to encourage them to apply what they know in order to solve the problem. 

An example of a money challenge could be asking children to work out how many 2p coins they would need to pay for something costing 10p in a shop. Then what coins would you need if you wanted to buy 2 of those same things – costing 10p each? You may need to support this with pictures. Through assessment of the answers given, you can incrementally make the challenge harder or try it with multiple options such as some 5ps and 2ps. Hopefully children are already spotting patterns and will be able to suggest multiple solutions to finding 20p.

Year 2 mental maths resources – moving past worksheets

Worksheets can be useful in helping pupils to practise maths skills, and many in Year 2 will include pictorials to replicate the manipulatives used in class. They may also use images to help pupils to align the maths they are learning with real life problems such as shopping for toys. 

Our Third Space Learning maths hub offers a wide range of interactive resources, games and maths activities for every year group. Membership to our maths hub has already assisted hundreds of maths teachers, providing them with resource packs,  workbooks and powerpoints of maths questions to deploy in class. 

In addition to the maths hub, Third Space Learning’s one-to-one online tuition is a great resource to help those students who need a little extra support in maths. Catered to each individual child’s needs we aim to build pupils’ confidence and fluency in maths. 

Take a look at some of the other great resources that Third Space Learning provides to help your class excel in mental maths:

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