Last Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Negative numbers – second level

What is this?

Find some ideas to support you to design an activity on negative numbers which you can use or adapt for learners in your class while they are working remotely. This learning activity is based on second level experiences and outcomes.

When designing learning activities, think about the range of learners in your class and their individual circumstances.

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) experiences and outcomes: Second level

  • I can show my understanding of how the number line extends to include numbers less than zero and have investigated how these numbers occur and are used. (MNU 2-04a)

Purpose of the activity

This activity builds on this learning by asking children to put negative numbers in order, and to consider the impact of place value on the size of negative numbers.

Learning activities

Using whichever method you use to share home learning activities with the children in your class, consider the following:

You may wish to direct children towards this useful video explaining negative numbers:

You may wish to provide children with example number lines such as:

Part One

Offer children tasks such as:


  • Write down a number lower than -2.
  • Write down a number lower than -13.
  • Draw an empty number line and place on it the numbers -5 and -10. Choose an odd number that is lower than -5 and higher than -10 and place it as accurately as you can on your number line.
  • Draw an empty number line and place on it the numbers -29 and -22. Choose an even number between -29 and -22 and place it as accurately as you can on your number line.
  • Write down a number between -15 and -16

Part Two

The heights of some of the highest and lowest places on Earth are given below. Measurements are given in feet.


Ask children to use the information in the table to answer questions such as:

  • What is the height of the lowest place on the list?
  • Which place is higher, Death Valley or Denakil?
  • Which place is lower, the Qattara Depression or Lake Assal?

For additional challenge, you could ask children to use a number line to find:

  • the difference in height between Karzok and Wenquan
  • the difference in height between Denakil and Death Valley
  • the difference in height between La Rinconada and Lake Assal
  • the difference in height between the place where they live and Death Valley

You may wish to provide a picture of a local map or suggest some digital tools that will help learners find the altitude (in feet) of the place where they live. 

Part 3

Ask children to use each of the digits 1, 2, 2 and 5 to find as many correct number sentences as they can.

For example - 25 > - 51 and - 12 > - 25.

Can they find them all?  How can they be sure they have found them all?

Encourage children to make up a similar puzzle for a friend or family member.

National Benchmarks

Depending on a child’s individual stage of development and their prior learning, children will be working towards these benchmarks, by the end of second level

  • Identifies familiar contexts in which negative numbers are used.
  • Orders numbers less than zero and locates them on a number line.

Possible approach to assessing learning

Receiving examples of learning at home from children will help you understand how they are managing the tasks you have set and provide some feedback. Using whichever approaches your school uses to communicate with parents, some of the following may be useful in supporting you to assess and celebrate children’s progress:

  • Some children may want to upload photos or a record of their work to their online learning journal, or online learning space on Google classroom or Microsoft Teams. This will give you the opportunity to provide feedback and next steps.
  • Reflective question: Where in everyday life do we regularly use negative numbers?