One activity – endless possibilities! How to adapt tasks to suit a variety of pupils

    Published: 12 May 2020

    One key challenge for teachers and parents alike is matching tasks to the different ages/stages without generating endless additional tasks. This could be a mixed-age class, a class with a wide prior attainment range or a family learning at home with children of different ages. This blog aims to demonstrate some of the ways one task, game or activity can be tweaked to provide different levels of challenge. Making adaptations is one way to increase engagement and access.     

    Adapting the number range

    As part of our wider support to schools, our team have been publishing a wide range of activities for pupils to tackle. These include the ‘Maths Everywhere’ slides for Reception to Year 6.

    One way of adapting these tasks to suit various year groups is to change the number range, which will include of course, deviating from whole numbers to using fractions and decimals where appropriate. This table shows a guide to the number range as specified in the 2014 National Curriculum for England.




    This Reception ‘Maths Everywhere’ task is focused on matching the number of objects to the numeral and then finding the total. 




    The game could be adapted by varying the number range on the hoops/skittles or varying the strategies used to find the total:

    • Year 1 – Keep single digit number range but moving to calculating rather than counting (e.g. “I know 6 + 4 is 10 and 2 more is 12”).
    • Year 2 – Two digit skittles (e.g. 20, 42, 37)
    • Year 3 – Three digit numbers (e.g. 231, 124, 367)
    • Year 4 – Fractions with the same denominator  (e.g. 6/8, 1/8, 3/8)
    • Year 5 – Decimals up to three places e.g. (1.237, 3.212, 4.326)
    • Year 6 – Fractions with varied denominators (e.g. 2/8, 3/4, 1/2)

    As well as increasing the difficulty of a task for older children, there are also opportunities to adapt tasks for a younger year group. This Maths Everywhere slide with number riddles is taken from Year 4 and could similarly be adapted for pupils working with a smaller or larger number range.


    year 4 maths text


    A Year 2 example of this riddle could be: 

    • I am thinking of a 2 digit number less than 30.
    • The tens digit is an even number. 
    • The ones digit is an odd number.
    • If I count in 5s from zero I will say this number.
    • What number am I thinking of? 

    Again, another way of further developing the task would be for pupils to write their own linked to the vocabulary for their year group. For example, a Year 4 child could be challenged to write a riddle including the terms ‘factor’ and ‘multiple’. The vocabulary list for maths is vast but here are some of the words which could be used in the riddles:

    • Year 1 and 2: odd, even, more than, less than, half, double, tens and ones,
    • Year 2: as above, plus: quarter, tens, ones,
    • Year 3: as above, plus: hundreds, multiple,
    • Year 4: as above, plus: thousands, factor, negative numbers, Roman numerals to 100,
    • Year 5: as above, plus: numbers up to 1 million, prime numbers, composite (non-prime) numbers, Roman numbers to 1000, square numbers, cube numbers,
    • Year 6: as above, plus: numbers up to 10 million, 

    Simplicity is key!

    One of my favourite tweets @hertsmaths has been tagged in recently was this from mother of three, Sally Aguiar, who has kindly given permission to share her activity. Sally tweeted:

    “[The] kids are playing a maths game. Each child has age appropriate post-it notes with equations on. Then I ‘hid’ the numbers around the house that match the answer…. The best things about this is I have three children. Year 3 child harder equations and times tables. Year 1 child maths equations to 20 and under and then a 3 year old child who had to match numbers up to 20. I’m very proud of being able to reach all three children with one game.”


    Room filled with number cut outs


    If you would like to create your own number hunt we’ve got you started with some example clues so pupils of all ages can be challenged, all whilst hunting for the same numbers:




    Solved in record time? Can children now write their own clues to match the same numbers? If you give it a go we’d love to hear how you get on via our Twitter account @Hertsmaths.

    Adding parameters

    A parameter can be described as a boundary or limit which defines the scope of a process or activity. In a previous blog,  I looked in detail at how adding parameters, or extra conditions, to tasks can add greater levels of challenge and thinking.


    Hashtag and image of kitchen items


    Across the summer term we are releasing a #FindItFriday challenge which can involve children of all ages. For some pupils, this hunt, which involves identifying a range of cuboids and describing their similarities and differences, will be a rich and engaging task in itself. However to add challenge, a parameter (or combination of parameters) can be used to make the hunt more challenging, for example:

    • Can you find a cuboid which would fit inside a….shoe box?
    • Can you find a cuboid at least 40cm in length?
    • Can you find a cuboid which contains at least one square face?
    • Can you find a cuboid which has a length at least twice as long as its width?
    • Is it possible to find a cuboid with a curved face? Why/why not?
    • Can you find a cuboid which has a capacity greater than 300cmᶟ?
    • Challenge: who can find a cuboid with a capacity closest to 500cmᶟ?

    Game on!

    And finally….if you missed the ‘Get your game face on’ blog from two weeks ago, there are lots of ideas of how to adapt simple gaming opportunities. All of the gaming videos on our YouTube channel contain ideas of how to adapt each game for different year groups.

    Further Professional Development Opportunities

    Two further blogs on more general approaches to differentiating tasks can be found here:

    Differentiation in maths – scaffolding or metaphorical escalators

    Differentiation - how different does it have to look?

    Contact details

    Latest blogs

    Receive our latest posts direct to your inbox...