Year 2

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We can add and subtract some numbers in our heads

Year 2 Unit 6

What we are learning:

  • Adding and subtracting mentally does not mean that you have to do everything and hold all the information in your head. Your child can make jottings (write things down, draw pictures) to support their mental calculation.
  • Building up your child’s mental calculation skills will support them in building a bank of facts that they know, not just because they have learnt them off by heart but because they understand them and can use them for other calculations.
  • Our aim is for your child to be able to recall the addition and subtraction facts to 10 (1 + 9 = 10, 10 – 9 = 1, 2 + 8 = 10, 10 – 8 = 2) and then 20

Activities you can do at home:

Model spinning one number/throwing a dice to generate a number, build that number using counters, cars etc. Spin/throw again to generate another number, build that number. Compare the two numbers to find the difference.
How many more orange ones do you have?
How many less red ones do you have?
What is the difference between the two numbers?

Model ‘informal’ written methods’ – put one object alongside each gap between two numbers on a number line. Count the number of objects between the two numbers to find the difference between them. When your child is confident, repeat this without the objects. Count up from the smaller number to the bigger number to find the ‘difference’ or count back to the smaller number from the bigger number to find the ‘difference’. Using a number line helps your child to see the size of the ‘difference’.

Work with numbers under 10 or where their total is under 10 until your child is confident. To be confident your child will recognise the written numbers, be able to quickly assemble that number of objects (if needed), and will be able to add or subtract using objects and occasionally by counting on or back without them.

When your child is confident to 10, extend the activity to include totals up to 20. Keep using objects if they help your child. Remember – a number is a representation of an abstract concept – seeing the right number of objects makes learning quicker and more secure at first. Different children take very different amounts of time to be able to work without physical objects to help them visualise maths.

Good questions to ask:

Can you add / subtract these numbers in your head?
What is the total of these numbers?
What is the difference between these numbers?
What do I need to add to 7 to get 10?
How did you work that out in your head?
Is there another way of doing this in your head?

If your child:

Tries to write everything down as a formal ‘sum’
Play games with numbers which you know your child can work out in his/her head so that they practise mental methods. Slowly make the numbers more demanding and keep to mental methods with jottings.

Extension Activity

Please use this activity when you think your child understands the unit of work. It will deepen and extend your child’s understanding of this unit.


Extension activity (PDF)