Maths KS1 Curriculum Overview: Key Foundations for Young Learners

Written by Dan

Last updated

Mathematics in Key Stage 1 forms a vital foundation for future learning and understanding across all subjects. At this stage in England’s national curriculum, the emphasis is on developing confidence and mental fluency with whole numbers, counting, and place value.

These early years are crucial, as they establish the building blocks for the maths skills children will continue developing throughout their education. The mathematics programmes of study outline what children should be taught in these formative years.

Related: For more, check out our article on What Maths Is Taught In Reception?

To build a strong foundation, the curriculum focuses on key areas such as arithmetic, shape, space, and measures.

Children are encouraged to understand and use numbers confidently by connecting them to real-life scenarios, thus ensuring that their learning is meaningful.

Pupils are taught through varied and frequent practice to help them remember and understand the concepts deeply. The key stages 1 and 2 curriculum document guides educators on systematically developing these skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Building number confidence and mental fluency are central aims of the KS1 Maths curriculum.
  • The curriculum covers arithmetic, shapes, space, and measures to provide a broad maths foundation.
  • Varied and frequent practice connects learning with real-life contexts, aiding deeper understanding.

Related: For more, check out our article on How To Teach Maths In Year Twelve

Understanding the Maths Curriculum Structure

In the UK, the structure of the maths curriculum is carefully outlined to provide a framework for mathematics education in primary schools. It delineates the expectations and educational targets for pupils from the onset of their formal education.

Key Stages and Year Group Breakdown

The National Curriculum in England for mathematics is segmented into different phases called Key Stages. Key Stages 1 and 2 pertain to primary education, with Key Stage 1 covering Year 1 and Year 2, and Key Stage 2 extending from Year 3 to Year 6.

This structure ensures a coherent progression in pupils’ mathematics comprehension and skills development.

Statutory Requirements and Non-Statutory Guidance

Within these key stages, there are specific programmes of study that outline statutory requirements—these are mandates set by law, meaning schools must follow them.

The contents include targets for knowledge, skills, and understanding that pupils should achieve by the end of each key stage.

Furthermore, the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics provides non-statutory guidance which complements these programmes by offering support and advice on best practices in mathematics education, although these recommendations are not legally binding.

Related: For more, check out our article on Circle Theorems In GCSE Maths

Fundamental Mathematical Concepts in KS1

In Key Stage 1, pupils build a foundation in fundamental mathematical concepts, gaining confidence with numbers and operations and beginning to explore shapes and measurements. These core areas of study set the stage for future mathematical understanding.

Number and Place Value

Pupils learn to recognise, count, and work with numerals and numbers up to 100. They develop an understanding of place value, recognising the difference in value between digits in the tens and ones places.

Counting in twos, fives, and tens from any number, forwards and backwards, is emphasised to establish a basis for fluency in calculations and number sequences.

Addition and Subtraction

Addition and subtraction are taught as essential operations, with children learning to perform calculations with one and two-digit numbers, up to 20.

They use objects, pictures, and number lines to aid understanding and are introduced to simple methods of mental addition and subtraction. Emphasis is placed on understanding the relation between these operations through the concept of inverses.

Multiplication and Division

While multiplication and division are touched upon less heavily in KS1 compared to addition and subtraction, pupils start learning about grouping and sharing small quantities to begin understanding these concepts.

They become familiar with the 2, 5, and 10 multiplication tables. Identifying odd and even numbers is also introduced within this context.

Shapes and Measurements

In KS1, pupils explore a variety of shapes and their properties, including naming and sorting common 2D and 3D shapes. They learn to recognise attributes such as the number of sides or the absence of straight lines.

Basic measures such as lengths, weights, and volumes are investigated using standard units. They also start to learn about time, including hours, minutes, and days.

Through the curriculum, pupils in KS1 are encouraged to develop core concepts and fluency with mathematical ideas, setting a strong foundation for more complex problems in later years.

Developing Reasoning and Problem-Solving Skills

The Key Stage 1 mathematics curriculum prioritises the enhancement of pupils’ ability to reason mathematically and solve sophisticated problems. These skills are fundamental for building a strong understanding of mathematics through interactive and practical learning experiences.

Mathematical Reasoning

Mathematical reasoning at KS1 involves guiding pupils to make sense of quantities and their relationships. Pupils should become adept at noticing patterns, making connections, and using inverse operations like addition and subtraction to deduce missing numbers.

A sound conceptual understanding is developed when pupils articulate their thought processes and justify their answers using appropriate mathematical vocabulary.

For example, understanding number bonds to 10 is essential for recognising how numbers can be split and combined in varied ways.

Problem Solving Techniques

Problem-solving in KS1 mathematics includes equipping pupils with strategies to approach rich problems that require application of knowledge in new contexts.

Pupils benefit from using pictorial representations such as arrays to aid in understanding multiplication and division concepts.

They learn how to break down more complex tasks into manageable steps. Teaching fractions starts with practical tasks, such as sharing equally, and progresses towards more abstract concepts.

Encouraging children to talk through their problem-solving process helps develop their competence in tackling sophisticated problems independently.

Resources and Support for Maths Education

The effective teaching of mathematics in Key Stage 1 (KS1) hinges on robust resources and structured support. These facilitate a child’s understanding of arithmetic and bolster the education process in primary schools.

Teaching Materials and Activities

A wealth of teaching materials is readily available for educators. For example, offers comprehensive libraries of worksheets, games, and other interactive experiences aimed at bringing maths alive.

Activities are often designed to embed mathematics vocabulary through practical application and enjoyment. Games, in particular, serve to reinforce practice and engagement outside of formal teaching sessions.

Non-statutory guidance recommends integrating maths into daily activities to enhance familiarity with core concepts. The use of consistent vocabulary across all materials is essential to help children assimilate new knowledge and link concepts together.

Assessment and Attainment Targets

Assessment is fundamental in monitoring a child’s progress against set attainment targets within the mathematics curriculum. It informs teaching strategies and highlights areas where additional support may be needed.

For teachers, official curriculum documents offer a framework detailing what children should achieve by the end of each key stage. Likewise, comprehensive PDF resources—freely downloadable—detail the proficiency levels expected in various mathematical domains such as number, shape, and measure.

Continuous assessment practices, both formal and informal, are critical in ensuring each child is attaining and, importantly, consolidating the required mathematical understanding.

Regular practice and evidence-based techniques are used to gauge a child’s familiarity with arithmetic operations and conceptual reasoning, guiding future educational approaches.

Adapting to Current Challenges in Mathematics Teaching

Adapting to challenges in the teaching of mathematics for Key Stage 1, which includes Year 1 and Year 2, has become critical due to the recent pandemic. This has necessitated innovative use of digital learning tools and a re-evaluation of educational approaches post-Covid-19.

Digital Learning Tools and ICT

The integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education has transformed how mathematics is taught in primary schools.

Teachers now increasingly rely on online resources designed to engage young children with interactive exercises and games, catering to the needs of students in both Year 1 and Year 2.

Digital learning tools not only enable personalised learning experiences but also foster a sense of enthusiasm towards mathematics.

Covid-19 Impact on Education

The Covid-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges to schools and education systems around the world. In the UK, schools had to rapidly adapt by incorporating online learning platforms to ensure that a child’s education could continue despite school closures.

Teachers have been instrumental in adapting the curriculum and learning objectives to suit remote learning environments, utilising a combination of live sessions, recorded lessons, and digital communication tools to maintain a consistent education for their students.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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