At Buglawton Primary School, we aim for all of our pupils to be fully numerate and have a real sense of number.  We recognise the importance of both mental methods that are high on understanding and formal written methods that are low on understanding but may be more efficient (depending on the context and numbers involved).

The Big Maths characters ‘Superfab’ and ‘Speedy Col’ help us when we calculate.

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Superfab is really good at focussing on holding numbers in his head, doing something else and then coming back to those numbers again moving along the FAB continuum, working from ‘full’ to ‘abridged’ and ultimately a ‘brains only’ method.

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Speedycol has lots of energy and likes to do everything quickly.  She isn’t just fast though; she’s careful too.  She likes everything done properly and is motivated to get the right result using column methods.

We have adopted a more consistent approach towards calculating:
– It is essential that there is a consistency in terminology used
– The methods for each operation are taught in an agreed way
– The methods are taught in a progressive way that take account of the small steps of learning
– We follow the Progress Drives for each operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) as set out in the BIG MATHS document

It is vital that pupils are taught according to the stage that they are currently working at or working at a lower stage until they are secure enough to move on. Where year groups are assigned to a method in this document will indicate where this will typically be introduced.


Learning of calculation methods should always begin with concrete experiences (using manipulatives) followed by pictorial/visual representations (models and images) before finally becoming abstract (use of symbols).


Pupils should be encouraged to ask themselves:
Can I do it in my head?
– Do I need to make jottings?
– Do I need to use a formal column method?

NB. Children should be encouraged to always use high understanding mental methods as a first resort. Once written methods are introduced, children should keep their mental skills sharp by continuing to develop and apply them to appropriate examples.  For example, we would expect questions such as £27.68 – £19.99 to be tackled mentally.

Progression through teaching of calculation strategies does not mean that previous skills are replaced, merely added to.

Before calculating, pupils should work through the following steps:
– Estimate
– Calculate
– Check it Mate!

Children who grasp concepts rapidly should be challenged through sophisticated and diverse problems to deepen their understanding before being accelerated through new content. (National Curriculum 2014)


A copy of our policy can be downloaded here: Buglawton Calculation Policy

The National Curriculum also shows some examples of which column methods should be taught: NC Maths Appendix 1: examples of column methods

Examples of the strategies used in each year group can be found on the relevant webpage:

Rec strategies

Y1 Strategies

Y2 Strategies

Y3 Strategies

Y4 Strategies

Y5 Strategies

Y6 Strategies