Teacher explains what maths kids should know before they start secondary school

Going to high school for the first time can be a daunting moment. It's a fresh start for kids to have new adventures as continue their learning journey.

Aside from figuring out where they stand in a high school's complex social structure, one thing many children worry about coming into secondary school is if they know enough primary school maths to keep up with the curriculum.

Like every other subject, the mathematics curriculum is naturally kicked up a notch once you enter high school. This is why it is vital that your child knows their primary school mathematics.

When kids enter Year 7, they should already have some knowledge of topics like geometry, percentages, ratio and even algebra, Mirror reports.

In reference to the UK National Curriculum, education is split into seven levels, with the ablest children expected to attain at least a level eight by the end of KS3.

Key Stage One is Year 1 to Year 2, with the average seven-year-old expected to achieve a level two in maths and writing.

We then move onto Key Stage Two, which covers children in Year 3 to Year 6, where the average 11-year-old is expected to achieve a level four in English maths and science.

Then there's Key Stage Three which is Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9, which includes a variety of different topics including equations, maths, symmetry, patterns and sequences and Pythagoras to name a few.

It's important that children have everything they need to be ready for high school maths during primary school, particularly in Year 6.

To break it down in more detail, we spoke to Charlotte, 26, a Year 6 primary school teacher from Northampton.

She said: “When teaching primary school children, we cover aspects such as place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, time, fractions, shape and geometry.

“When a child is in Year 6, they will also cover percentages more so along with ratio and algebra.”

It’s not all numbers and shapes though, primary school children have to work out reasoning with world problems and multi-step problems.

There will be arithmetic-based focus lessons that also use maths reasoning/mastery to further challenge children.

Charlotte said: “We try and use a lot of concrete resources to support children who struggle to grasp ideas, but also use it for those more able children to reason and support their understanding.

“So things like place value counters, base ten, making connections between different strands of maths is a key area as well.”

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What about sets?

During primary school, your child will most likely be taught in mixed ability groups, but as they move to secondary school, that’s where they are put into ‘sets’ or ‘streams’ all according to their academic ability within the core subjects, like maths, English and science.

Sets are where students are grouped by ability in a specific subject, but with streaming, students are assessed for their general academic ability and put into classes accordingly.

With setting, you could for example have a child who’s a high achiever in English but average at maths, so they’ll be top set for English and middle for maths.

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In streaming, the class stays together for all subjects. For example, children might be tested at the beginning of Year 7, and the highest achieving 30 pupils put into the top stream.

Charlotte continued: “Some schools do mixed ability table groups or set by ability, we mix ours so we have a higher attaining with perhaps a lower attaining.

“However, every school is different, but we use partner work in maths which helps a lot with supporting.”

Maths as a whole is more popular among the children says Charlotte, but if the knowledge isn't secure in early years and in primary school it does make it harder to fill the gaps later on.

"We try and move from concrete to pictorial to abstract and that process shows progression and hopefully understanding.

"Primary school maths is such a huge aspect within the curriculum, but if aspects of the maths are not regularly reviewed then the learning is easily lost. An example of this is multiplication, it needs frequent review in order for children to fluently and accurately know their times tables.

"They then need to look at the pattern and the relationship with how their times tables link to related calculations, such as 50 x 3 or 300 divided by 5."

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