Primary maths: Negative numbers

Sian Evans
08th November 2017
Children smiling and answering questions to promote positive messages about negative numbers

Promote positivity when working with negative numbers with help from these innovative resources

When you’ve spent all these maths lessons talking about numbers bigger than zero, it comes as no surprise that introducing negative numbers can cause some confusion. That’s why we’ve selected some of the very best negative number resources for all ages, whether you are talking about abstract ideas or discussing real-life examples. So, number lines at the ready…

Classroom activities

Why would you hand out repetitive practice questions when you could liven up lessons with this varied collection of challenges? Set your class a mixture of problems and watch them adapt their knowledge to solve them all with confidence.


Negative Numbers Magic Squares Challenges

Negative Numbers Magic Squares Challenges: A series of 3 differentiated magic square challenges. Complete the puzzles so that each row, column and diagonal have the same total. A fun problem solving challenging featuring negative numbers.

For more Outstanding Resources for Outstanding Teachers, please visit my website
By Helen Rachel Crossley

Negative Number Word Problems

These word problems get children to think about decoding and working out negative number word problems. There are 2 differentiated sheets. I created this resource for my year 4 class, but feel it could be used in higher key stage 2 year groups as well. If you find this a useful resource, please comment and recommend. Many thanks.
By n_neil_w

Difference in Temperatures Problem Solving Activity

Activity using clues about temperatures in British cities to label a map with 12 cities and their respective temperatures. Clues are in a random order so they could be cut up into cards if that helps, the solution shows the order to tackle them, so they could be re-ordered for weaker students. The map labels either contain a city name or temperature and the learner writes the missing information in as they go, except the last city, which has both pieces of information missing. The map allows some cross-curricular links with Geography (markers on map are my educated guess) and there is obviously a link with Literacy. This is suitable for individuals/pairs/groups and can be printed 1 or 2 to a page.
By Maths Tiger

Negative Numbers

Activities for differentiated negative numbers lessons at Key Stage 2 (KS2) and early KS3. It was originally designed for Year 5 and Year 6 and equivalents. Includes 3 fun Hidden Word / Spot the Mistake Puzzles (and solutions), a 30-card Loop Game / Dominoes Set and 16 Word Problems Cards (8 multi-step and 8 more simple). A TES RECOMMENDED RESOURCE.

An engaging alternative to worksheets, these Numeracy puzzles make ideal starter, early finisher or homework activities. There’s one on increasing and decreasing temperature (Celsius), one for simple subtraction calculations with mostly negative number answers and a more challenging puzzle featuring addition and subtraction of negative and positive integers. Puzzles can be completed individually or in pairs / groups. Similar to codebreaker puzzles, a maths-related word is revealed after completing calculations. Each puzzle contains a grid. Within each box is a calculation and a letter. Pupils circle boxes containing errors. Then they assemble the letters from the circled boxes to reveal a maths word. There’s a further challenge question / task at the bottom of the page linked to the word.

Pupils often forget or avoid checking their work so it’s great to get them carefully checking in these puzzles. Spotting common errors may help them remember to check their own work.

Fun group / whole class activity to consolidate adding and subtracting negative numbers, using phrases (‘reduce by’, ‘increase’, ‘difference between’ etc). Forms a continuous loop.

8 Multi-Step Word Problem Cards and 8 more simple. Solutions can be printed back to back with question side for student self-checking or can be printed and made into separate cards if required. Consolidates understanding of negative numbers in the contexts of temperature (degrees Celsius), money / bank accounts and points in a sporting league. Work well as early finisher challenges. Separate pounds and dollars versions.

A Mega Bundle of 12 of my Maths puzzle packs, including this one, is available for a huge saving, while the same packs are also available in smaller bundles:

Maths Puzzles MEGA BUNDLE
Maths Puzzles BUNDLE 1
Maths Puzzles BUNDLE 2
Maths Puzzles BUNDLE 3

Visit FullShelf Resources for printables, activities and presentations to plan Primary Literacy, Maths and French lessons.

By FullShelf

Lesson ideas

Take your time exploring the concept of negative numbers using these easy-to-understand visual representations. These are ideal at the start of a unit or when recapping the basics before diving deeper into the topic.


KS2: Negative Numbers (Six Lesson Unit of Work + BONUS RESOURCES)

This is a six lesson unit of work for teaching all negative numbers objectives in Year 4, 5 and 6. In this resource pack you will find: Lesson plans (including for your TA), differentiated worksheets/activities/games (LA, MA and HA plus a challenge activity for deeper understanding/mastery), answer sheets for all activities, flipcharts for whole class teaching (in ActivInspire, PowerPoint and PDF format) and a mini-assessment for the end of the unit. This pack will save you hours and hours of planning, resourcing, differentiating, finding challenging activities and generating flipcharts all for an amazing price. In addition, resources are uploaded in both PDF and Word format so that they can be edited to suit your needs. The children will love the fun characters, games and interesting activities

Lesson 1 introduces negative numbers and has the children placing numbers and identifying numbers on a number line, including negative numbers. The challenge activity: estimating numbers, including negative numbers, on a number line.

Lesson 2 starts with a fun game of number line tennis and then has the children counting forwards and backwards along a number line crossing zero. The challenge activity: counting across a number line, but with larger numbers.

Lesson 3 starts with a fun game of ‘Jungle Joust’ and then has the children using a number line to answer addition and subtraction questions involving negative numbers. The challenge activity: hot air balloon problem solving using negative numbers.

Lesson 4 involves the children calculating intervals across zero. The challenge activity: problem solving - ordering intervals represented on a blank number line.

Lesson 5 involves the children learning to read, use, compare and solve problems involving thermometers, including negative numbers. The challenge activity: Estimating readings on a thermometer

Lesson 6 involves the children comparing and ordering numbers, including negative numbers. Also, completing sequences that cross zero. The challenge activity: Can the children order the 24 numbers including negative numbers, decimals and fractions?

BONUS: Also included is a mini-assessment and answer scheme for the end of the unit AND NOW ADDED a worksheet generator (perfect for early bird or homework).

Objectives Covered:

Count backwards through 0 to include negative numbers

Interpret negative numbers in context, count forwards and backwards with positive and negative whole numbers, including through 0

Use negative numbers in context, and calculate intervals across

Each lesson is also available as an individual lesson (£2 each). Check out my shop to find these great resources + lots more!

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By mrajlong

Negative Numbers - Number Line, Ordering and Differences.

(All answers are provided)

I've designed this resource to allow students to explore negative numbers from the basics.
It begins with a brief look at where negative numbers are used in real life.
This then leads to looking at the number line and finding missing numbers and rules.
Students then need to identify if a number is less than, equal to or more than another number or sum.

I've then created an interactive game where the students can come to the board and pop the bubbles in the correct order. (The bubbles move after a few seconds when in presentation mode). This then lists the order underneath. If a bubble is missed out there is a gap left and a discussion can be had about which number they missed and why etc..
There is then a written activity to be completed of order lists of numbers.

Students then start to look at temperature and the differences between negative and positive numbers. This leads into an activity on the difference of temperatures between different capital cities.

Then to finish there is an application on how this could be seen in an exam situation including answers.
I hope you find this resource as useful as my students have.
Miss B
By MissBsResources

Negative Numbers: An Introduction

Here is a PPT that introduces the idea of Negative numbers
By dontcallmelewi

Negative Numbers KS2

A bright and stimulating Powerpoint to explain Negative Numbers. This powerpoint has 12 slides (Plus one title and one end slide). Designed for KS2.

The topics in the powerpoint are:
Negative Numbers
Negative Numbers: A Number Line
Putting Negative Numbers in the Correct Order
Adding and Subtracting Negative Numbers

Both the original powerpoint, and the new one (with new title and end slides) are included.

By Magictrickster


And, just incase your maths lessons aren’t engaging enough already, these simple maths games are a great way of consolidating understanding. Plus, these activities are guaranteed to get your pupils talking about the maths that is taking place, developing both reasoning and interpersonal skills. 


Negative Numbers Codebreakers

Two lame jokes from yours truly whose punchlines are unveiled upon answering the negative numbers questions. Number 1 is simple adding and subtracting, number 2 is multiplying and dividing (including Bidmas).
By alutwyche


It will be a good resource to introduce pupils to negative numbers.
Pupils should be taught to:
• count backwards through zero to include negative numbers
• add and subtract negative numbers
• compare negatives numbers
• interpret negative numbers in context, count forwards and backwards with positive and negative whole numbers, including through zero
By karina19890

Tarsia Convince Me: Negative Numbers Arithmetic

This is a “Tarsia: Convince Me” activity on operations with negative numbers

Unlike standard Tarsia activities, here you only need to print out the solution (included on the PowerPoint), and students must:

1. Find (at least) 5 incorrectly matched up elements, convince you that each one is incorrect explaining the mistake that has been made, and then decide what the answer should have been

2. Replace the ? with the correct answer

3. Come up with a question to replace ?? that could give the answer. A selection of these questions can then be given to other students to use as a rich, challenging, pupil-created homework.

To access all my updated Tarsia jigsaw activities, including the Convince Me series, as well as teacher notes and more, please visit
By MrBartonMaths

Negative Switch Card Game

A simple and fun little card game to exercise quick-fire, spontaneous positive and negative calculation of positive and negative integers. We have included a set of rules of play, but they are highly customisable for your needs. The game is also easily and quickly prepared for play with one student, all the way up to an entire classroom.

We also have a simpler version of this game that contains only positive integers.

This is included in Card Game Bundle 5

You may also like:
Negative Integers Battle Card Game
Negative Numbers Bingo
By LittleStreams

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