Year 6

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We can find the difference between positive and negative numbers

Year 6 Unit 1

What we are learning:

  • When children experience negative numbers, it is usually in contexts such as temperature, using lifts that go underground or money (owing money resulting in a negative balance, or debt)
  • Refer to the numbers below zero as negative numbers, e.g. read -3 as negative 3 (not minus 3 as ‘minus’ refers to the operation of subtraction).
  • When calculating a ‘difference’ this can be done in two ways, either by starting at the smaller number and counting on to the larger or alternatively by starting at the larger number and counting back to the smaller number.
  • Ensure that negative numbers are modelled on both horizontal and vertical
    number lines.

Activities you can do at home:

Record the temperature in a particular place over several days. If it is not the time of year where the temperature falls below zero, then use the internet to find a city where it does.

Ask questions like these:
Is it warmer or colder than yesterday/last Thursday/last week? By how much?
If the temperature falls by 3°, what will the temperature then be?
Make a simple bank balance as below. Examples are provided on the Activity
Sheet for this Unit.
For example, if the balance is -£42.70 one day and the next day £5.40, how much was paid into the account? A number line may be useful to show that the difference is £42.70 + £5.40 = £48.10:


Good questions to ask:

How much money was paid into the account?
How much money was taken out of the account?
What does a negative balance mean?

If your child:

Finds it difficult to explain the difference between positive and negative numbers (e.g. +4 and -4)
Use a written number line to see and count the spaces, counting through zero from negative to positive.

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)

Extension activity answers (PDF)