How to help your child excel in the most important 11+ Maths topic: Arithmetic

No child is born into the world immediately able to complete long multiplication and division. Two British researchers Gray and Tall sought to discover why some students are better in maths than others. Their findings are so significant and life changing they should be shouted from the rooftops: ‘high-achieving students don’t just know more, but they work in very different ways – and, critically, they engage in flexible thinking when they work with numbers, decomposing and recomposing numbers‘.

Building the fundamental understanding of numbers and arithmetic should begin from as young as five as highlighted in this study. The aim is for your child to build ‘number sense’ which means they should be able to use different strategies to solve questions. For example,  the tricky question 96 + 17 would  be a daunting mental task for most students. But a child with good ‘number sense’ may work it out by saying ‘ I could add four to 96 and take this away from 17 so the question would change to 100 + 13 = 113’. This ability to deconstruct the question to something more familiar to make the task easier is the difference between a high achiever in Maths and a low achiever.

Students can learn to use numbers flexibly at any age, so do not fret as there is still plenty of time left if you have not begun to introduce arithmetic to your child. When you do begin to introduce this to your child, you should begin with the basic concept of addition and subtraction. Focus on ensuring your child understands these first and help them learn common number facts particularly doubles, number bonds to ten/twenty/hundred. Once these are mastered then proceed with teaching them the concept of multiplication, times tables and division. It is crucial your child learns each individual concept in detail and not simply by rote. Your child must know when to use each operation or they will simply be guessing their way through the test papers!

Focus on helping your child learn one individual concept at a time. Any more and your child may become confused.

Ensuring your child has the expert numerical skills is the first step to passing the 11 plus exams: your child will need to be a mini calculator.

Below you will find our recommended resources to help your child master the first and most important maths topic in the 11 plus exams. Alternatively, your child can join us in our classes or courses to help them build their maths skills.


Key Stage 1 (ages 4 – 7)






Apps/Online Games

Addition and subtraction

Addition and Subtraction game – hit the button (designed to improve number bonding)

Multiplication tables



Key Stage 2 (ages 8 – 11)









Math games: arithmetic

Math: long division


Don’t miss our recommended  7 maths topics children must master for the 11 plus exams !

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