What Is A Number Sentence: Explained For Primary Parents And Kids!

In this post, we will be answering the question “what is a number sentence?” and running through everything you need to know about this particular part of primary maths. We’ve also got number sentence questions and worksheets that you can use to test out your child’s skills.

What is a number sentence?

A number sentence is a combination of numbers and mathematical operations that children are often required to solve. 

Example of a number sentences include:

32 + 57 = ? 

5 x 6 = 10 x ?

103 + ? = 350

They will usually comprise of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division – or a combination of all four!

Remember – You may consider the above simply as “sums”, but referring to them as this can be confusing for children because the word “sum” should only be used when discussing addition. 

A Third Space Learning online tuition lesson using number sentences to solve problems.
A Third Space Learning online tuition lesson using number sentences to solve problems.

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When will my child learn about number sentences?

In the English National Curriculum, number sentences are referred to as ‘mathematical statements’.

These math sentences or statements are introduced as a maths skill in Year 1, where pupils read, write and interpret mathematical statements involving mathematical symbols including addition (+), subtraction (–) and equals (=) signs.

Number sentences build on what children will have already learnt about number bonds.

Then, children will expand on this:

  • Year 2 pupils calculate mathematical statements for multiplication and division within the multiplication tables and write them using the multiplication (×), division (÷) and equals sign (=).
  • Year 3 pupils write and calculate mathematical statements for multiplication and division using the multiplication tables that they know, including for two-digit numbers times one-digit numbers, using mental and progressing to formal written methods. These pupils continue to practise their mental recall of multiplication tables when they are calculating mathematical statements in order to improve fluency.
  • Year 4 pupils write statements about the equality of expressions (for example, use the distributive law 39 × 7 = 30 × 7 + 9 × 7 and associative law (2 × 3) × 4 = 2 × (3 × 4).
  • Year 5 pupils are expected to understand the terms factor, multiple and prime, square and cube numbers and use them to construct equivalence statements (for example, 4 x 35 = 2 x 2 x 35; 3 x 270 = 3 x 3 x 9 x 10 = 81 x 10). 
  • They should also recognise mixed numbers and improper fractions and convert from one form to the other and write mathematical statements > 1 as a mixed number [for example, 2/5 + 4/5 = 6/5 = 1 and 1/5].
  • Year 6 pupils continue to use all the multiplication tables to calculate mathematical statements in order to maintain their fluency.
Number sentence examples

So, for example, in Year 1 your child will begin with addition sentences and subtraction number sentences. A number line may be helpful at this stage. In Year 2 they will use division sentences using whole numbers. By Year 4, they will use decimals in their number sentences.

Wondering about how to explain other key maths vocabulary to your children? Check out our Primary Maths Dictionary, or try these other maths terms:

Number sentence practice questions

1) Complete the number sentences.

340 ÷ 7 = ____  remainder ____                        

____÷ 3 = 295 remainder 2

2) Here is a number sentence.

____ + 27 > 85

Circle all the numbers below that make the number sentence correct.

30           40           50           60           70

3) Write in the missing number.

Number Sentence Question for primary school children
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