Ioan has been looking at number bonds to 20 this week. We used magnatiles to help him learn about inverse operations.


  • Radiator
  • Magnatiles
  • Magnetic numbers
  • Magnetic maths signs +, – and =


Home Learning

School sent home a worksheet last week, using ten grids to work out number bonds to twenty. At the time we worked on our number bonds kinaesthetically, as we tend to avoid worksheets wherever possible.

Kinaesthetic learning or tactile learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.

Before Ioan’s brothers came down for breakfast, I gave him the worksheet covering last week’s learning. I wanted to see whether he was able to understand the same concepts in a printed format, ready to build on it, kinaesthetically today.

A useful tip is to put the worksheet inside a plastic wallet and fill it in using a whiteboard pen. Not only is it easy to rub out and correct any mistakes as they go along, but it means you can rub out the answers and revisit it a later date if necessary.

Ioan was confident adding using the layout _+_=_

So he moved on to _=_+_

After these few examples, I was confident he understood, so we moved back to some kinaesthetic learning.

Kinaesthetic Learning

As mentioned briefly above, kinaesthetic learning is the process that results in new knowledge (or understanding) with the involvement of the learner’s body movement. This movement is performed to establish new knowledge or extend existing knowledge. It works best when the learner uses language (their own words) in order to define, explain, resolve and sort out how movement reflects the concept explored.

I made sure the magnetic numbers and signs were spread out around the edges of the radiator, so Ioan needed to reach and stretch to find the numbers. Each magnatile represented one.

The first example was 7+3 and 7+13.

He then set up his next example, 2+8.

Inverse Operations

Inverse operations are opposite operations. Subtraction is the inverse of addition and division is the inverse of multiplication. Once a Year 1 child is able to subtract by taking objects away from a group, or counting backwards on a number line, then you can encourage them to try to work these questions out in their head.

For example, to answer the question:
16 – 9 =
a child needs to start to think: ‘What would I add to 9 to make 16?‘ 

This means they are using the inverse operation to work out a question mentally.

Ioan was now confident writing the addition facts, so I encouraged him to think about their related subtraction facts.

Ioan revisited the first example he did, to tell me the inverse operations.

As he became more confident finding the related subtraction facts, he didn’t need to record them. He kept referring to his starting point of 7+13=20 to prompt his thinking, touching the magnatiles to remind him where he was up to.

DfES Outcomes for EYFS and National Curriculum (2013)

Numeracy Year 1 programme of study

Number – addition and subtraction

  • read, write and interpret mathematical statements involving addition (+), subtraction (–) and equals (=) signs
  • represent and use number bonds and related subtraction facts within 20
  • add and subtract one-digit and two-digit numbers to 20, including zero
  • solve one-step problems that involve addition and subtraction, using concrete objects and pictorial representations, and missing number problems such as  7 = _  – 9.