In the PYP, Mathematics is viewed primarily as a vehicle to support inquiry, providing a global language through which we make sense of the world around us. It is intended that students become competent users of the language of Mathematics, and can begin to use it as a way of thinking, as opposed to seeing it as a series of facts and equations to be memorized.

The Role of Mathematics in the Programme of Inquiry

Wherever possible, Mathematics is taught through the relevant, realistic context of the Units of Inquiry. The direct teaching of Mathematics in a Unit of Inquiry may not always be feasible but, where appropriate, introductory or follow-up activities help students make connections between the different aspects of the curriculum. Students find opportunities to identify and reflect on “big ideas” within and between the different strands of Mathematics, the Programme of Inquiry and other subject areas. Links to the trans-disciplinary themes are explicitly made, whether or not Mathematics is being taught within the Programme of Inquiry. A developing understanding of these links contributes to the students’ understanding of Mathematics in the world and to their understanding of the trans-disciplinary theme. The role of inquiry in Mathematics is important, regardless of whether it is being taught inside or outside the Programme of Inquiry. However, there are occasions when students are given a series of strategies for learning Mathematical skills in order to progress in their Mathematical understanding.

Mathematics strands

Data handling

Data handling allows students to make a summary of what we know about the world and to make inferences about what we do not know.

  • Data can be collected, organized, represented and summarized in a variety of ways to highlight similarities, differences and trends.
  • Probability can be expressed qualitatively by using terms such as “unlikely”, “certain” or “impossible”. It can be expressed quantitatively on a numerical scale.


To measure is to attach a number to a quantity using a chosen unit. Since the attributes being measured are continuous, ways must be found to deal with quantities that fall between numbers. It is important to know how accurate a measurement needs to be or can ever be.

Shape and space

The regions, paths and boundaries of natural space can be described by shape. An understanding of the interrelationships of shape allows students to interpret, understand and appreciate our two-dimensional (2D) and three dimensional (3D) world.

Pattern and function

To identify pattern is to begin to understand how Mathematics applies to the world in which we live. The repetitive features of patterns can be identified and described as generalized rules called “functions”. This builds a foundation for the later study of algebra.


The number system is a language for describing quantities and the relationships between quantities. For example, the value attributed to a digit depends on its place within a base system. Numbers are used to interpret information, make decisions and solve problems. For example, the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are related to one another and are used to process information in order to solve problems.

Source: Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education 2009