Are your Year 5s ready for a maths challenge?

    Published: 23 February 2021

    A huge thank you to all the schools who entered last year’s Year 5 maths challenge. It was hugely successful with over 220 teams and almost 900 pupils taking part in the local heats. And despite the challenges of lockdown, just like the 20 competing teams, we were determined to ensure it reached its natural conclusion with a remote final in October.

    Although we missed the excited noise of teams in the same room, we imagined what was happening in schools.

    Congratulations to Pixmore Junior School in Letchworth who edged a very closely fought final to be crowned eventual 2020 winners.

    I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to all teachers and adults who helped make the entire competition a success.

    So to this year’s Year 5 competition (2021): entries are now open for the 2021 Year 5 maths challenge.

    The structure will be similar but the heats and final will be remotely delivered. This has the added value of increasing the number of teams who can compete. And it means no travel and you can choose the date which is most convenient.

    In this blog, I wanted to briefly share a bit of detail about the format and some examples. Particularly for schools who have not entered teams before.

    There are a few mathematics competitions that pupils can engage in. What makes ours unique is that it requires a team of 4 pupils to work together. Each question challenges the group to communicate, negotiate and reason to reach a collective decision. We have designed it as such because these are some of the mathematical skills we value as a maths team. Time limits for questions serve as an extra pressure.

    This year’s heats last for about 45 minutes and will have three rounds. An additional memory round is completed before the heat. The resources and guidance are provided to all entrants beforehand.

    Two ‘general’ rounds sandwich my favourite, the ‘estimation’ round.

    Rounds 1 and 3 consist of 6 questions. Each has a different mathematical focus and challenges different types of problem solving skills. Following presentation, the team work quickly within the time limit to negotiate and agree their answer. Some questions involve a number of steps. So the most effective teams are quickly able to distribute roles before submitting their final answer.

    Below are some examples of previous questions.


    Maths graphic


    Maths graphic


    The best teams here were able to distribute the sub-tasks to then agree their submission.


    Maths graphic


    Maths graphic

    The best teams here were able to identify missing information and use different types of logical reasoning to problem solve.

    My favourite round involves teams using their estimation skills in a range of contexts. This may well be in the context of measures, for example. In previous competitions (in person heats), this would have included the use of physical resources as props and stimuli for the questions. Such as in the questions below. Teams managed their own pace to answer all questions in the time limit provided. Marks are awarded in ‘bands’ to the exact answer.


    Maths graphic


    Maths graphic


    As the competition will be remote this year, this round will now focus more upon pupils’ visual estimation skills. Such as in the images below.


    Maths graphic


    Maths graphic


    In the memory round, teams are tasked with recreating a complex mathematical poster that only two members of the team are allowed to see. Points are scored for the accuracy of each item recreated. Two members of the team (observers) are allowed to view the poster for 30 seconds. Then return to their team and describe it for their two team mates (scribes) to draw. No hand gestures are allowed! Observers must rely on the precision of their mathematical language to help the scribes re-present the size and position of each item. Observers are allowed 3 further visits to the poster and 3 further descriptions to the scribes. Each time focusing upon details missed before. Points are awarded (up to a maximum of 60) for the accuracy of team’s completed recreations.

    A number of very effective strategies have been developed. From watching the skilful teams at play, these are some examples:

    • chunking up the poster into 4 parts and using each ‘visit’ to focus upon and describe each quadrant to their scribes
    • identifying the larger items first
    • pairing up an observer and scribe to work on each ‘half’ of the poster simultaneously


    Maths graphic


    This year’s Year 5 maths challenge has now been planned for the summer term 2021. There are 6 after-school remote heats (3.30-4.30pm) to help all select a convenient date. The 20 highest scoring teams will be invited to the remote grand final on Thursday, 27th May.

    It is open to all Year 5 pupils and schools can enter up to two teams.

    Click the links below to book your places:

    A pack of practice materials and top tips will be sent to all teams upon booking.

    If you would like to know more, email

    Follow this year’s competition on Twitter at @HertsMaths #mathschallenge

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