Negative numbers: counting, comparing and calculating

Spine 1: Number, Addition and Subtraction – Topic 1.27

Primary KS2 Year 5
Mastery PD Materials


Introduce children to negative numbers, making links to everyday contexts; explore addition and subtraction below zero and across zero.

Teaching points

  • Teaching point 1: Positive and negative numbers can be used to represent change.
  • Teaching point 2: Our number system includes numbers that are less than zero; these are negative numbers. Numbers greater than zero are positive numbers.
  • Teaching point 3: The negative/minus symbol (−) is placed before a numeral to indicate that the value is a negative number.
  • Teaching point 4: Negative numbers can be shown on horizontal scales; numbers to the left of zero are negative (less than zero) and numbers to the right of zero are positive (greater than zero). The larger the value of the numeral after the negative/minus symbol, the further the number is from zero.
  • Teaching point 5: Knowledge of the positions of positive and negative numbers in the number system can be used to calculate intervals across zero.
  • Teaching point 6: Negative numbers are used in coordinate and graphing contexts.