A Parents Guide to Big Maths

‘Big Maths’ is a ‘sequential programme of daily basic skills for numeracy’.  It is based on learning core skills and the ability to apply these skills to other areas of mathematics.    There are 4 main elements (CLIC).

  • Counting
  • Learn Its
  • It’s Nothing New
  • Calculation


Counting is the starting point!  We begin to learn to count by saying numbers in order and recognising and ordering numbers.  In KS2 the counting process extends to counting multiples, decimals and fractions.  We incorporate a counting element into most lessons.

Learn Its!

Learn its are number facts and our aim is for the children to learn them so well that they can recall them instantly.  They include all one digit + one digit facts (sums) and all one digit x by one digit facts (products).  The children are aware (through discussion and displays in class and whole school display and celebration in the main hall) that they are on a journey; they will know where they are on the journey and what their next step is (e.g., I know my number bonds to 10 and my doubling facts, now I am learning ….. and next I will be …). 

In all there are 72 Learn its (36 addition and 36 multiplication) but they are broken down so that during each term there are new facts to learn.  In Reception, for example, the children start in term one with 2 number facts (1 + 1 and 2 + 2).  In term two the children learn 3 + 3, 4 + 4 and 5 + 5 (all doubles have now been acquired).  The objective is that by the end of year 4 the children will have learnt all 36 addition and multiplication facts.  Some children will know all of these before year 4.  Some will need continued support into year 5. 

It’s Nothing New

‘Counting’ and ‘Learn It’s’ depend on learning ‘How many?’  Now we begin to encourage the children to use what they already know in order to recognise related facts. For example, if we know that 7 + 6 = 13, then we must know 6 + 7, 60 + 70 and 70 + 60 and, as we progress, we will understand that 130 – 60 = 70 and 1300 – 700 = 600!


This is about using what we already know about the four operations and number facts to solve problemswithout having to count.  For example,

14 x 8 does not require us to lay out 8 groups of 14 objects and having to count them because, as we already know that 10 x 8 = 80 (because we can already multiply by 10) and 4 x 8 = 32 (because we are learning table facts in Learn Its’), then 80 + 32 will equal 112 (because we can already add two, 2 digit numbers).

What do the children do?

At the beginning of each lesson  children use ‘Learn Its’ flash cards (not in year R) and for the first 5 minutes of the lesson they work with a partner, testing each other and helping each other to learn and recall the fact/s.  The children enjoy challenging themselves and each other. 

In Reception children are involved in games, songs and activities to introduce addition and doubling (eventually link to halving) and at the same time the first Learn It facts are introduced through play. 

By the time older children are working with tables ‘Learn Its’ they would already have started to learn about multiplication in class so the children are not simple learning by rote without understanding.

One lesson each week is called Big Maths  and the children complete two timed tests.  These are introduced using jingles and the children are challenged to beat their score from last week.  They love it!

1. RECALL; there are 6 recall tests (yrs 1-6) and they are linked to Learn it’s.  Children in year one begin with a few addition facts (linked to Learn it’s from reception and year 1) and by year 4 children are being tested on addition and multiplication facts (if they are ready).  There is a set time limit for each test and the children answer as many questions as possible in the time given.   There is a bank of tests which take 10 weeks to complete and then they are repeated again.

For the above example children are allowed 60 seconds.  How many are you able to complete in that time?    Have a go!

2. CLIC; there are 5 levels of CLIC test (linked to National Curriculum levels 1-5) and each CLIC test has 10 key questions.   So children in Key Stage one start with level 1 and, as their mathematical skills and knowledge progress, they would move on to level 2, and so on.   There is no time limit for completing the CLIC paper and children are encouraged to use jottings or diagrams to help them as they answer the questions. 

The example below is from level 2. 

What do the teachers do?

Well, most importantly, teachers use the results from Recall and CLIC tests to personalise learning for your child.  Using these every week not only helps children to practice and improve their skills and knowledge, they also enable teachers to directly assess  groups or individual children and identify what they can or cannot do and so plan accordingly. 

Teachers also make sure that children’s target cards are linked to skills on CLIC tests and tick targets as they are achieved, helping children to track their own progress.

As children move through KS1 into KS2 they progress at different rates and so teachers also make sure that Learn It’s are matched to each child’s progress.    For example in one class there may be a pair of children still needing support with doubling and halving, some may be on more complex addition facts and some on multiplication facts.

Children are taught Maths from the Primary National Framework but teachers are also referring to the Big Maths Teacher Folder.  This helps to ensure continuity between teachers (i.e., we will be using common strategies) and progression throughout (i.e., a chronology of learning skills, i.e., we can’t teach 16 x 4 until the children understand how to multiply by 10).


We recently invested in new equipment called Numicon (after much recommendation from advisors and colleagues in other schools).  Numicon is a multi sensory approach to teaching Maths, is purchased in kits (i.e., Kit one for year one) and the apparatus and activities are linked to National Curriculum levels.

The apparatus helps children from an early age to understand what a number looks like (e.g., what does 3 look like?) rather than it being an abstract concept.  In Reception classrooms you’ll find Numicon shapes (we call them plates) scattered around the room, in the sand tray, the water and on the dough table so children can familiarise themselves with the appearance of the number.  The children need no encouragement to begin to count the shapes.

The equipment is then used as a tool to support learning throughout KS1 and into KS2.  You may have seen your child bringing laminated copies of the Numicon shapes home as part of homework tasks.

You may be interested to know that parents can purchase a ‘1st Steps With Numicon At Home Kit’.  For more information go to 


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank ‘The Friends of East Wittering School’ for helping us to purchase additional kits and equipment. 

Mrs Garrett 

(Maths Co-ordinator)