Year 5 Maths

maths owl

Negative Numbers

Positive numbers are numbers greater than 0. There is another set of numbers that are less than 0. They are called negative numbers. Negative numbers are written with a minus sign.

Negative numbers are a bit harder to understand than positive numbers, but they can be very useful. For instance, suppose you are keeping track of how much money your friend Jerome owes you. Letís say that at first Jerome owes you £5. Then Jerome pays when you have a doner kebab that costs £2. Subtract 2 from 5 by moving your finger two notches to the left on the number line below.

number lines

After that, Jerome only owes you £3. Suppose he buys you a big ice cream sundae, with sprinkles and sauce, for £4. If you move four more ticks to the left, you move past zero to Ė1. What does it mean to say Jerome owes you -£1? It means you owe him a pound! How much would you owe him if he lent you £3 more?


See if you can put these numbers in order from the least to the greatest:

1, -3, 2, 0, -5

By using the number line, you can see that the order would be -5, -3, 0, 1, 2. Donít be fooled into thinking that -5 must be greater than -3 because 5 is larger than 3. The number line shows you that -5 is farther to the left of zero than -2, which means it is less.

This activity is adapted from page 211 of What Your Year 5 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.