30 August 2018

Year 7 Maths Activities

Craig Barton has just released his podcast Slice of Advice: First Lessons. It's packed full of good advice so do have a listen. In my contribution to this podcast, I promised that I would share some activities for first lessons (or indeed, any lesson) with Year 7. Here we are looking at activities that are accessible without being patronising, and give students the opportunity to show us what they can do (mathematically speaking) as we circulate and meet them for the first time. There are hundreds of great activities that would work well. This post features just eight examples. The pictures shown are only extracts - please click on the links for the full resource.

1. In-Betweens from Colin Foster
This is an enjoyable and highly accessible activity with a good stretch task. It will start to give you a good idea of how much your new Year 7s know about place value.
2. Rainbow Squares from Math Pickle
The idea is to find pairs of numbers that add up to square numbers (children were taught square numbers at Key Stage 2).  There is a high level of challenge as the task progresses. If anyone struggles to get started here they could be given a list of square numbers.
3. Addition Pyramids 
In Gems 84 I wrote about the time I saw this classic activity in an interview lesson. It's really simple and engaging. It looks like it may have been based on this Nrich task.
Read this post to see a similar task in action.

4.  Consecutive Chains from MathsPad
I love this - it's fun for everyone! Children first meet square and cube number in Year 5 and should be familiar with primes, factors and multiples. I think this task will be accessible to some Year 7s (perhaps after a reminder of number properties) but not all.
5. Shape Time Shape by Nrich
In this lovely task the coloured shapes stand for eleven of the numbers from 0 to 12. Each shape is a different number. Students have to work out which is which. This is an accessible and enjoyable task that gets students noticing and reasoning.
6. Loops by Colin Foster
This pattern spotting task is slightly more challenging, but still accessible. This is good if you want your students to start secondary school with maths that looks quite different to anything they've done before.

There are loads more lesson activities in this set of numeracy activities from Colin Foster. I particularly like 'Musical Composers' and 'Number Triangles'.

7. Number Properties Challenge from Stephen Bodman
Give students three or four random digits and they have to generate numbers with specific properties - such as 'biggest number', 'smallest odd number', 'number closest to 3000' and so on. You can download the resource from TES and it could become a regular feature of your Year 7 maths lessons.

8. Number Mazes by Erich Friedman
Start with the number on the left. By moving through the maze and doing any arithmetic operations on the number that you encounter, exit the maze with the result on the right. You may pass through an operation several times, but you can not make a U-turn. The results of all operations will be positive whole numbers. Each maze has several solutions, but has a unique shortest solution.

There are 16 puzzles here and they quickly get more difficult. The maths is accessible to all though, making it a great activity for the first lesson with Year 7.


After the first lesson, I'd get straight on with teaching the content of the scheme of work. We must of course be mindful of what maths our students have been taught at primary school, but take into account that they are likely to be a bit rusty after the long summer break (this applies to every year group!). If you have one main feeder school it's worth finding out if there are any particular methods (eg bar modelling) that your students will be familiar with.

All secondary teachers, but particularly Year 7 teachers, should know the content of the primary maths curriculum. This summary by Michael Tidd is very helpful, and perhaps worth looking at during a maths department meeting at the start of the new school year. It's also a good idea to look through the SATs papers that your new Year 7s took at the end of Year 6. To help you translate their SATs scaled score data - in 2018, a mark of 61 out of 110 (ie 55%) translated to a scaled score of 100, which is the Government's 'expected standard' pass mark. Of course the numbers don't tell us much, so hopefully our students will start to show us much of their mathematical knowledge and understanding over the first few weeks of Year 7. We must give them the opportunity to do so!


  1. I can't tell you how many times you've posted a set of resources which are exactly what I need for the following week :D Also a great reminder of the awesome Colin Foster's activities. Thanks for all the hard work you put in - it's very much appreciated!