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National Curriculum: Algebra - Year 6 - Activities

Created on 24 October 2013 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 05 April 2016 by ncetm_administrator


Programme of Study statement Activities
express missing number problems algebraically bullet       bullet
use simple formulae expressed in words bullet     bullet  
generate and describe linear number sequences   bullet   bullet  
find pairs of numbers that satisfy number sentences involving two unknowns     bullet    
enumerate all possibilities of combinations of two variables.     bullet    

Activity A: Racetrack and Design a board game

racetrack design a board game

(Taken from Bridging units in mathematics – Algebra: introducing symbols, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), 2000)

This pack of lesson materials (10 lessons for Y6 and 6 for Y7) was designed to support better continuity and progression in the learning and teaching of algebra between primary and secondary schools. The year 6 lessons contain the following themes: using function machines, notation and recording, generalising the results of an investigation and writing instructions using letters.

Activity B: Sticky Triangles

A puzzle in which match sticks are used to make a different number of triangles. An opportunity to generalise and symbolise.

matchatick triangles

Activity C: This Pied Piper of Hamlyn

The ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’ is a story you may have heard or read. This man, who is often dressed in very bright colours, drives the many rats out of town by his pipe playing - and the children follow his tune.

The challenge is to investigate how many children/rats there could be if the number of legs was 600.

Pied Piper

Follow this link for a wealth of other NRICH activities where the focus is on finding all possibilities

Activity D: Generating Sequences

Say together the three times table: one three is three, two threes are six, … Ring the multiples 3, 6, 9, … up to 30 on the grid with a red pen as you say them.

Remind pupils that multiples of 3 are numbers that divide exactly by 3 and include the numbers in the three times table.

number table
  • Q Are the multiples of 3 odd or even? (they alternate)
  • Q Can you describe the pattern the ringed numbers make? (sloping lines). How will it continue? (the sloping lines will extend across the grid)
  • Q Will 36 be in the extended three times table? How do you know? Encourage pupils to look down the sloping lines of ringed numbers to judge whether 36 would be included. Repeat for 57 and 41.

Repeat this process for the four times table, marking them with a blue square. Draw out that all the multiples of 4 are even. This is taken from a series of four algebra lessons held on the National STEM Centre eLibrary.

The ‘Algebra 1’ lesson includes tasks on generating number sequences and describing them using formulae expressed in words.

N.B.You may wish to support the main activity of this lesson by using the ITP Number grid.

picnic statements


  • How many bananas are needed for 30 people going on a picnic?
  • All 16 bananas were eaten at a picnic. How many people went?
  • How many rugs are needed for 12 people on a picnic?
  • 5 rugs were taken to a picnic. How many people went?
  • How many biscuits are needed for 8 people for a picnic?
  • 60 biscuits were packed for a picnic. How many people went?
  • 12 hard-boiled eggs were packed for a picnic. How many people went?

The ‘Algebra 4’ lesson includes tasks on using formulae and solving simple equations

Activity E: Matchbox Algebra

matchbox and matches

Matchbox Algebra is an applet which poses missing number problems in the context of matches and matchboxes and allows the use of symbols to represent them.


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05 April 2016 11:27
All the links to the resources on the National STEM Centre have now been updated.
05 March 2016 15:12
Yes this is where I found STEM / Bridging Units doc: https://www.stem.org.uk/elibrary/resource/31246/bridging-units-in-mathematics
By asivan
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01 March 2016 15:15
Re Racetrack

If you google the name of the document from STEM, then you can find the whole unit online Bridging units in mathematics – Algebra: introducing symbols
By redmaths72
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09 February 2016 12:15
Only the NRich links work. The race track one still doesn't.
By webz
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18 January 2016 11:06
The National STEM Centre recently updated their website and the links and we are working with them to resolve all the broken links.
17 January 2016 20:49
Please fix broken links
By ianconnor77
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13 January 2016 16:32
Hi There, sadly none of the STEM links work anymore for this topic. Is there anyone that can correct the links to their new website set up?
By jenfellowes
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02 January 2016 10:29
Hello. The link to the race track activity doesn't work anymore.
By Zoe123
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02 January 2016 10:29
Hello. The link to the race track activity doesn't work anymore.
By Zoe123
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08 December 2014 08:32
cannella - this may be due to your security settings, so you may have to allow pop-ups (on a temporary basis). In Chrome, there will be a small icon in the right hand side of your browser bar which will lead you through this.
06 December 2014 19:20
Haven't been able to open the Matchbox Algebra applet in Chrome or IE9
By cannella
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