Maths Starters for KS1 and KS2
Maths starters can be a fantastic way of settling children into ‘learning mode’ at the start of a lesson, as well as helping to embed Maths knowledge, understanding and fluency across a range of skills.
We’ve pulled together some of our favourite Maths starters for both KS1 and KS2 learners that you can whip out at a moment’s notice, or structure into your weekly planning.
What’s the question?
This can be an incredibly effective Maths starter that really helps get children’s brains going. Display a number, statement or fact for the children and ask, ‘If this is the answer, what was the question?’ For example, if you displayed the number 20, younger children might think of 10+10 as their question whereas older children might think of 800÷40.
You can extend this activity out by challenging children to find an answer that nobody else in the class has thought of. This helps children think beyond the obvious and encourages lateral thinking.
Tell me about it
This flexible Maths starter can often produce some surprising results! Show a number, shape, coin or anything else on the board and challenge children to tell you as many facts about it as they can think of. This is one of those activities where the more often you do it, the more facts children will retrieve each time.
There’s an almost endless list of activities you can do with dice for Maths starters. For KS1 children, try giving them two or three dice and challenging them to add up the total dots for each throw. You can make this a game by getting children in pairs or small groups and giving one point for the highest total each throw. Up the challenge for KS2 children by making them multiply the numbers together.
Another good dice activity is repeated addition (or repeated multiplication if you’re feeling adventurous!). Ask children to predict how many throws it will take to get them to a target number (let’s say, 50). Children to throw the dice multiple times, adding the number to a running total each time until they get to the target number. Include tally charts to keep track of the number of throws as an added activity!
It’s an oldie but a goodie! Ask children to create a six-box grid on a mini-whiteboard and select six numbers, shapes or fractions to put in each section. Some good Bingo games could include:
- Multiples of a number
- Square numbers
- Prime numbers
- Shapes (children could write the number of sides and tick each box when you read out the name of a shape with that number of sides)
- Numbers to 20 (use simple addition or subtraction statements)
- Odd and even numbers
- Converting fractions to decimals and vice versa (ask children to write down any fraction from 0-5, for example, then read out decimals within that range)
Take One Number
This simple Maths starter ticks off a range of important skills and is an activity you can change depending on what you want your class to focus on. Give children a number and ask them to apply a range of different functions, such as adding 10,100 and 1000, finding 1, 10 and 100 more and less, rounding to the nearest 10, 100 and 1000, doubling and halving it, finding the place value of each digit…and anything else you want children to practise! These free Take One Number differentiated worksheets can provide a great starting point for this.
Addition and Multiplication Grids
Addition and multiplication grids are a great Maths starter to help embed number skills. Provide grids with empty spaces and challenge children to fill in the blanks from the information given. Try these Addition Squares or Times Table Grids as a starting point. Depending on how you set them up, they can also be used to practise using the inverse to solve problems. Bonus!
Missing Number Problems
Following on from these are missing number problems. You can set these as closed problems that challenge children to find the one correct answer, or open questions that will challenge children to consider different ways of completing a number sentence.
For example, you could either have ‘_+12=35’ or ‘_+_=35’. Both provide valuable activities but practise different skills.
You could also provide missing number statements that will encourage children to find the missing numbers in number patterns. For KS1 children, choose number sequences with simple steps, such as odd numbers (1,3,5,_,9,_,13…), multiples of 10 (10, 20, _, _, 50, 60 _…) or sequences with set intervals (1, 4, 7, 10, _, 16, 19, _, 25…).
For KS2 children, make the sequences more challenging by including sequences of square or cube numbers, prime numbers and multiples of all multiplication tables. You could also try sequences that have irregular steps, for example where you double or halve the previous number to get the next number in the sequence. The opportunities are endless!
Great for upper KS2 children particularly, this activity really encourages children to be inventive in how they use numbers to reach a target number. For example, give them the target number ‘24’ and the digits 1, 2, 3 and 4. Children have to use the four digits any way they like to reach their target number. Check out this free lesson for some more examples.
The more familiar children are with mathematical vocabulary the better! Using Maths starters to support children in being able to discuss and articulate their mathematical thinking is a great way to consolidate vocabulary. Try playing hangman with any words you want children to embed, or giving them a word with a choice of definitions – can they choose the correct one? Even simply providing dictionaries for children to find the definition of unfamiliar terms is a great little Maths starter for the day!
Another fun Maths vocabulary game is to give a child a term, then do a Pictionary-style game where they have to draw the term for their peers to guess.
Why not download these free Vowel-less Maths Puzzles to have on hand too for when you need a quick Maths starter?
As a teacher, it’s always handy to have a set of Maths puzzles to hand, either for Maths starters or as time-fillers at the end of the lesson. Here are some of our favourites:
- Sudoku - up the challenge by turning the numbers into Roman numerals!
- Futoshiki - this is similar to Sudoku and challenges children to add the digits 1-4 so they appear once in every row and column.
- Number crosswords
- Picture puzzles
- Position puzzles - give children instructions about where to put shapes or objects in a grid and let them use their reasoning skills to work out where each one should go.