How To Help With Maths For 11-Year-Olds – How To Prepare for SATs and Secondary School

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Maths for 11-year-olds can be quite a mountain to climb. At age eleven, children have got two major challenges to tackle. With the SATs or 11+ exams in May and secondary school just around the corner, Year 6 can be a tense time.

At Matr, we understand that you need to get the most out of every moment you’ve got in this final year… so read on for some key advice on how to beat the exams (and the stress that comes along with them) and some support on how to make the transition to secondary school a smooth one.

Prep, prep, prep… How to help your child before the KS2 SATs or 11+ exams

The biggest challenge when taking the SATs in Year 6 is pressure.

Many children work so hard in the weeks coming up to the exams that they lose sleep and feel anxious (which in turn, leads to worse performance on exams).

The best way to tackle this is to start early and practise often to avoid cramming at the last minute, and you’ll both have a much less stressful experience of the SATs.

If it is getting a little late in the year and you’re worried, there’s still plenty you can do to get your child on track in time for the exams so read on to find out how!

Revise basic maths skills for the end of primary school exams

Never underestimate the power of revising basic mathematical skills.

Quick arithmetic can be the difference between racing against the clock in an exam versus having enough time to check over each answer thoroughly.

Whenever you can, challenge your child to do sums in their head.

It might start out slow, but a couple of minutes of practice a day will get you both thinking on your feet and make maths for 11-year olds seem a lot less daunting!

If you can work it into a daily routine, even better!

Here are three simple ideas you can incorporate into your everyday to get those maths brains whirring:

1. Movie Maths

Plan to spend an evening together and choose a movie to watch. Ask your child to work out what time you’ll be done watching. You could also get them to work out how much time they have left before they need to head upstairs for bed.

E.g. The film is 1 hour and 13 minutes long. If we start watching at 18:04, and we have a 15 minute break (to get kitchen snacks!), what time will it be finished?

Your bedtime is 20:30, how long do you have before you need to go to sleep?

2. Shopping Sums

Create a shopping list and ask your child to estimate the cost of the list you’ve made. Then once you’ve bought the items – give them the receipt (with the total ripped off!) and get them to add up all the items on the list.

You can also ask them to find out the difference between their estimated total and the real total.

E.g. The total sum of the shopping was £78.90. Your estimate was £85.60. What is the difference?

3. Reading Time

After reading a book, ask your child to work out how many pages you’ve read.

E.g. We started on page 85 and now we are on page 101 – how many pages have we read?

The book is 224 pages long – how many pages do we have left until the end?

It’s these little moments that will take the weight off when the clock is ticking during exams – plus your child probably won’t notice they’re doing maths if they’re reading their favourite book!

Free Maths Resource – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory eBook

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More maths for 11-year-olds: practise test questions for the KS2 exams

The odds are your child will be practising test questions at school almost every day.

But, at school, they will be focusing on working out these questions independently, which leaves room for a lack of understanding.

Teachers may revisit the more complicated questions, but when it comes to maths for 11-year olds, it’s a good idea to practise at home so you can identify which questions are causing headaches.

Once you know which ones are causing issues, you can work on a strategy to solve them in plenty of time for the exams.

If it’s getting close to the exams and your child is still finding the test format tricky, don’t panic.

Many children (and adults!) find exams nerve-wracking and perform worse as a result.

So, keep chipping away by modelling the way that you would answer each question.

Don’t be afraid to share with your child which bits challenge you – all too often, children give up on test questions just because they’re afraid of getting it wrong.

And this doesn’t mean they don’t possess the skills to get the answer!

It could be insightful to speak to your class teacher if you’re really concerned. They’ll be able to tell you what’s helping at school so you don’t have to muddle through alone.

Timed maths practice for KS2 exams in Year 6

Although practice papers are perhaps one of the least appealing things ever to an eleven-year-old, it’s vitally important that your child experiences exam conditions before the real thing.

If you overdo it, you’ll end up with a seriously grumpy mathematician, but there are ways of packaging exam practice as a positive thing.

Top tips for setting a serene exam scene

1. Make sure that the room your child is in is peaceful and quiet (and away from the barks of the dog!)

2. Whack a few fairy lights in the room to give it a nice, calming ambiance.

3. Give your child a refreshing glass of water with a slice of lemon in it – hydration is crucial when it comes to brain power.

4. Buy them some nice new stationery to make the experience a more pleasant one and reassure them that life isn’t all about exams.

5. Get them a clear timer so they get in the habit of checking the time to know how long they can dedicate to each section in their paper – and to checking afterwards.

The key here is to help your child practise pacing their effort.

The first couple of times, focus on helping them notice how long each question takes (you could even mark the time taken next to each one).

Don’t worry if they can’t complete the test in the time limit the first go – you can work up to this in time together!

As you practise more and more, you’ll both notice the time decreasing.

Once they’re able to finish the whole test in the time stated on the paper, you can have a go at factoring in time to check over the paper once or twice.

Take a look at our post on how to help ten-year-olds with maths at home for some more Year 6 help, or read on for what to expect towards the end of the year.

There’s life after SATS… How to support your child after the KS2 exams

It’s likely that your eleven-year-old will be less than enthusiastic about the core subjects after two full-on terms of the stuff.

You both deserve a break after a long, hard slog, but there are ways to keep up the momentum (without killing off their passion for maths forever).

It’s a funny time after the exams.

Everyone is exhausted, but there’s a whole term to go before the summer holidays.

The reality of leaving primary school starts to settle in and there may be more tension in friendship groups than usual.

Keeping the routine of regular practice in maths can be an anchor for children who feel a bit out of place at this turbulent time.

Make maths for 11-year-olds exciting after the exams: fun maths in context activities!

Churning out word problems is probably the last thing on your mind after all that exam practice, so get creative.

It’s a good time to start thinking about maths in contexts other than school, so here are a few easy ideas you can try to practise maths with your 11-year-old at home!

Maths activity 1: Take maths outside

There’s plenty of outdoor activities you can do to rekindle your child’s interest in maths.

From spotting angles to active games to making shapes, the world really is your oyster when it comes to doing maths outside.

If you need some inspiration take a look at our in-depth blog on the top 5 maths activities you can do outdoors together!

Maths activity 2: What will I be when I grow up…?

Why not take a look at which careers require great maths skills to get your child interested in how maths really works?

Rollercoaster engineers, game designers and jet fighter pilots all require maths everyday, and the list is endless!

Have a go at researching all the exciting jobs that need maths and your child will soon see that maths is more friend than foe!

This will also give them a reason to stay motivated through those tricky topics at secondary school.

Maths activity 3: Tool time

It’s incredibly useful at this age to introduce some of the tools needed for maths in the workplace, such as digital spreadsheets.

Your child will encounter these in secondary school, and the more practise they get, the better.

If you’re not too sure about spreadsheets yourself, make it a learning journey that you take together.

A simple start could be to track how your mood changes when you drink more water (something that will benefit both of you).

Maths activity 4: Awaken your child’s inner entrepreneur

Now is the time to awaken your child’s inner entrepreneur!

Plan a project to complete over the summer holiday; challenge your child to raise as much money as possible through a business idea of their own.

This could be anything! Whether they’re washing cars for neighbours or building an online platform for fans of flossing, make sure you supervise what they’re doing and give help where necessary.

There are plenty of books out there for budding child entrepreneurs and plenty of inspirational examples, like these young people.

Plus, in many projects children will have to handle money, and money management skills can provide a wonderful way to add purpose to decimal work.

You’re also providing your child with the skills and confidence to handle their accounts later in life.

Maths for 11-year-olds at secondary school: start early!

Once secondary school starts and the workload ramps up, there’ll be less time to revisit the basics of written calculation.

So make sure you revise the formal written methods for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division now when you have the time, to avoid headaches later on.

It’s valuable to focus on presenting work neatly so that mistakes are easier to catch. (And presentations crop up often at secondary school!)

You’ll find that long division tends to cause the most trouble, so it’s worth making time for that regular practice.

As the numbers get bigger and bigger, your child will spend more and more time using a calculator. A scientific one, at that.

After years of using a simple calculator at primary school, it’s more advanced counterpart might look like an alien device.

But don’t fear – experiment together!

Have a go at this easy task to help your 11-year-old get to grips with a scientific calculator in a fun way:

Spot the scientific symbol

Step 1: Take it in turns to guess what a button does before looking it up.

E.g.: ”I think this means you multiply the number by itself because the little 2 makes it look like a square number.”

Step 2: Talk about how you came up with your guess. It might not be correct (and the answer might be too high level right now), but that’s okay!

Step 3: Repeat! Whoever gets to 5 correct answers first gets a reward of your choosing!

This fun exercise will help your child to develop their problem-solving skills in the face of unfamiliar symbols and processes.

Maths for 11-year-olds: how to challenge them at home

One of the first unfamiliar topics that your child will face at secondary school is algebra.

And with all those letters and symbols, it’s easy to see why many children feel overwhelmed.

Algebra doesn’t follow the same notation as basic primary school maths, so it’s worth revising what each symbol means when dealing with these kinds of problems.

You might even want to take a look at the order of operations in algebra, but we only recommend this for mathematicians that feel ready to look at numbers with powers and square roots. If your child needs an extra algebra boost, our tutors are here to help.

Otherwise, just learning the notation will put them a step ahead.

Although back when we were at school algebra might have been a mysterious subject, the emphasis on deep understanding these days means that most schools teach algebra with more reference to its uses and concrete examples.

You might also hear more about balancing out the side of the equation (which is a much simpler concept than just memorising the steps to solve it).

Whenever you get the chance, ask your child to explain what they learned about more complex maths topics on the day that they learned them – this is hugely helpful for retention and gives your child a reason to remember all those complicated ideas.

Maths for 11-year-olds can seem like a tricky task, but that’s why we’re here to help…

Finding free time is not always easy – especially for parents! If this sounds like you, then doing maths with your 11-year-old may end up at the bottom of the agenda even if you don’t want it to. That’s where we come in!

Our expert tutors are trained in the UK national curriculum, so they know everything that 11-year-olds need to tackle in maths back to front! And with all our 1-to-1 lessons personalised to each individual learner, you can rest easy knowing that your child is getting the help they truly need at the level they require.


To find more about out one-to one online maths tuition and how it could work for your child, click here. We are so excited to bring all of the knowledge we have from teaching over 650,000 lessons in primary schools throughout the UK into your home, but don’t wait too long as places are limited!

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