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Year 2 Maths Worksheets UK Hub Page

Welcome to Math Salamanders Year 2 Maths Worksheets hub page.

In our Year 2 area, you will find a wide range of printable math worksheets and Maths activities for your child to enjoy.

Come and take a look at our dot-to-dot pages, or our maths games. Perhaps you would prefer our 2d shape worksheets, or learning about numbers using our number line worksheets?

Hopefully you will find something here to meet your child's maths requirements!

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  • This page contains links to other Math webpages where you will find a range of activities and resources.
  • If you can't find what you are looking for, try searching the site using the Google search box at the top of each page.

Year 2 Maths Learning

Here are some of the key learning objectives for the end of Year 2:

  • know and use Place value up to 100
  • Compare and order numbers up to 100
  • Counting on and back in 1s and 10s
  • count in 2s, 5s and 10s
  • Position numbers on a number line up to 1000
  • use addition and subtraction facts to 20
  • use related facts for addition and subtraction
  • add or subtract 1 or 10 from a 2-digit number
  • add and subtract 2-digit numbers
  • number bonds to 100 using tens only
  • add three single-digit numbers
  • recognise and make equal groups
  • use the x symbol to write multiplication sentences
  • use arrays and pictures to represent multiplication sentences
  • know multiplication facts for the 2, 5 and 10 times table
  • recognise and find a half, a quarter and a third
  • understand and use fraction notation
  • understand the equivalence of a half and two-quarters
  • count on in halves, thirds and quarters up to 10
  • count in pence: 1p, 2p ,5p, 10p and 20p
  • count in pounds: £1, £2, £5, £10 and £20
  • find a simple total or difference between two money amounts
  • find the change from simple amounts
  • tell the time: o'clock, half-past, quarter-past and to
  • understand and compare durations of time
  • compare and measure length, mass, volume, capacity and temperature
  • read a variety of scales going up in 1s, 2s, 5s and 10s
  • recognise 2D and 3D shapes
  • count sides and vertices on 2D shapes
  • count faces, edges and vertices on 3D shapes
  • sort and make patterns with 2D and 3D shapes
  • describe movement and turns
  • make tally charts
  • draw and interpret pictograms
  • understand and use block diagrams

Please note:

Our site is mainly based around the US Elementary school math standards.

Though the links on this page are all designed primarily for students in the US, but they are also at the correct level and standard for UK students.

The main issue is that some of the spelling is different and this site uses US spelling.

Year 2 is generally equivalent to 1st Grade in the US.

On this page you will find link to our range of math worksheets for Year 2.

Quicklinks to Year 2 ...

  • Place Value Zone

Operations Zone

  • Mental Math Zone

Word Problems Zone

  • Measurement Zone

Geometry Zone

Data analysis zone.

  • Fun Zone: games and puzzles

Coronavirus Stay At Home Support

For those parents who have found themselves unexpectedly at home with the kids and need some emergency activities for them to do, we have started to develop some Maths Grab Packs for kids in the UK.

Each pack consists of at least 10 mixed math worksheets on a variety of topics to help you keep you child occupied and learning.

The idea behind them is that they can be used out-of-the-box for some quick maths activities for your child.

They are completely FREE - take a look!

  • Free Maths Grabs Packs

Place Value & Number Sense Zone

Year 2 Place Value Charts

Here you will find a range of Free Printable Place Value Charts for Year 2.

These printable charts will help your child learn to read and write numbers.

Some of the charts are partially filled to help your child learn their place value.

Using these sheets will help your child to:

  • learn to count in tens and ones;
  • learn to read and write numbers.
  • Printable Number Charts 0-99
  • Hundred Number Charts (100 Squares)
  • Number Grid up to 200

Place Value and Counting Worksheets

Here you will find a range of Year 2 Place Value Worksheets.

These Year 2 maths worksheets will help your child learn their place value, reading, writing and ordering numbers up to 100.

There are also some money worksheets involving counting in dimes and pennies to support place value learning.

  • learn to order numbers to 100;
  • learn to count in dimes and pennies;
  • learn to read and write numbers to 100.

Year 2 Place Value Worksheets

  • Place Value to 20 Worksheets
  • Math Place Value Worksheets Tens and Ones
  • Ordering 2-digit numbers Worksheets
  • Greater than Less than Worksheets - up to 2 digit numbers
  • Printable Counting Worksheets to 50
  • Missing Number Chart 1-100
  • Counting by 2s Worksheets
  • Math Worksheets Counting by 1s 5s and 10s

Number Line Worksheets

Here is our selection of free printable number line worksheets for Year 2 pupils.

These first grade math worksheets will give your child a good grasp of place value and number sequences up to 100.

  • count on and back by ones;
  • position numbers to 100 on a number line.
  • Number lines to 20
  • Number lines to 100

Year 2 Mental Maths Zone

Here you will find a range of printable mental math sheets designed especially for Year 2 children.

Each quiz tests the children on a range of math topics from number facts and mental arithmetic to geometry, solving word problems and measures questions.

A great way to revise topics, or use as a weekly math quiz!

  • Year 2 Printable Mental Maths

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Year 2 Addition Worksheets

Here you will find a range of Free Printable Addition Worksheets to support Year 2.

The following first grade math worksheets involve adding different amounts.

  • learn their addition facts to 12+12;
  • learn to solve an addition fact where one of the addends is missing;
  • learn to add numbers in columns up to 100.
  • Number Bonds to 10 and 12
  • Addition Sentences to 12
  • Addition Fact Practice to 12
  • Addition Facts to 20 Worksheets
  • Adding tens
  • Addition Word Problems
  • 2 Digit Addition Without Regrouping
  • 2 Digit Addition Worksheets With Regrouping
  • Free Addition Worksheets (randomly generated)

Year 2 Subtraction Worksheets

Here you will find a range of Year 2 Subtraction Worksheets.

The following worksheets involve using the Math skills of subtracting.

Using these Year 2 maths worksheets will help your child to:

  • learn their addition and subtraction facts to 12;
  • learn to subtract 2 digit numbers.
  • Subtraction Facts to 12
  • Subtracting tens
  • Subtraction Word Problems
  • Two Digit Subtraction Worksheets Without Regrouping
  • 2 Digit Subtraction Worksheets With Regrouping
  • Free Subtraction Worksheets (randomly generated)

Addition & Subtraction Worksheets

If you need to mix and match addition and subtraction fact questions within the same sheet, then use this section here.

The addition and subtraction worksheets involve counting on and back with numbers to 12.

  • Math Activities Addition and Subtraction to 12
  • Add and Subtract 10 Worksheets
  • Addition Subtraction Worksheets (randomly generated)
  • Addition and Subtraction Problems

Year 2 Maths Word Problems

Here you will find a range of math word problems aimed at Year 2 level. Each problem sheet is based on an interesting theme such as parties or the seaside.

  • Add and subtract with numbers to 12;
  • order numbers to 100;
  • solve a range of math problems.
  • Maths Problems for Year 2

Longer Math Problems

  • Year 2 Maths Problems (1st Grade)

Year 2 Geometry Worksheets

Here is a range of free geometry worksheets for Year 2 pupils.

The following worksheets will help your child to:

  • Identify and name a range of 2d and 3d shapes;
  • Draw 2d shapes;
  • Know some of the properties of 2d shapes.
  • Year 2 Geometry Worksheets (1st Grade)

Measurement Zone, including Time & Money

Year 2 measurement worksheets.

Here is our selection of measurement worksheets for Year 2 pupils.

These sheets involve reading scales going up in ones to find the weight or liquid capacity.

Using these sheets will help children to consolidate their counting as well as learning to read a simple scale.

  • Year 2 Measurement Worksheets (1st Grade)

Year 2 Money Worksheets

Here you will find a range of free printable First Grade Money Worksheets.

The following worksheets involve counting different amounts of money in pennies, nickels and dimes.

  • learn the names and values of the US coins;
  • learn to count up different amounts of money to £1 in coins.
  • Free Counting Money Worksheets UK Coins (easier)
  • Free Money Worksheets UK Coins up to £1

Printable Money Resources

  • Printable Money Flashcards
  • Kids Counting Money Dominoes

Telling the Time Worksheets

Here is our selection of telling the time worksheets for 1st grade.

  • read o'clock and half-past times;
  • convert o'clock and half-past times to digital;
  • draw clock hands correctly to mark out o'clock and half-past.

The year 2 maths worksheets in this section will help your child learn to tell simple times on an analogue clock.

  • Telling Time Worksheets o'clock and half-past
  • Clock Worksheets - Quarter Past and Quarter To

Year 2 Bar Graph Worksheets

Here is our selection of bar graphs for first graders.

These Year 2 maths worksheets involve reading and interpreting a range of bar graphs and picture graphs with a scale going up in ones.

Using these sheets will help children to understand how bar graphs work.

  • Year 2 Picture/Bar Graphs (First Grade)

Fun Zone: Puzzles, Games and Riddles

Year 2 Maths Games

Here you will find a range of free printable Math games. All children like to play Math games, and you will find a good range of Maths Games at a Year 2 level here for your child to play and enjoy.

  • Year 2 Maths Games (First Grade)

Year 2 Maths Puzzles

Here you will find a range of printable Year 2 level math puzzles for your child to enjoy.

The puzzles will help your child practice and apply their addition and subtraction facts as well as developing their thinking and reasoning skills in a fun and engaging way.

Using these puzzles will help your child to:

  • develop thinking and reasoning skills;
  • develop perseverance.
  • Year 2 Maths Puzzles (1st Grade)
  • Dot to Dot up to 50

Math Salamanders Year 2 Maths Games Ebook

Our Year 2 Maths Games Ebook contains all of our fun maths games, complete with instructions and resources.

This ebooklet is available in our store - use the link below to find out more!

  • Year 2 Maths Games Ebook

Other UK Maths Worksheet pages

See below for our other maths worksheets hub pages designed for children in the UK.

How to Print or Save these sheets 🖶

Need help with printing or saving? Follow these 3 steps to get your worksheets printed perfectly!

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The Math Salamanders hope you enjoy using these free printable Math worksheets and all our other Math games and resources.

We welcome any comments about our site or worksheets on the Facebook comments box at the bottom of every page.

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problem solving question year 2

45 year 2 maths questions

Learn how to master year 2 maths word problems with these 45 maths questions! Answers included.

headshot of author, Michelle

Author Michelle Griczika

problem solving question year 2

Published February 2024

problem solving question year 2

  • Key takeaways
  • Addition & Subtraction : Adding and subtracting numbers is like solving puzzles and helps us with real-life situations.
  • Word Problems : Solving word problems makes maths fun and helps us become better readers and problem solvers.
  • Place Value : Understanding place value helps us read and write numbers correctly and compare their values.
  • Measurement & Time : Measuring objects and telling time help us understand the world around us and manage our daily routines.
  • Geometry (Shapes) : Recognizing shapes and their properties helps us see the world in a new way and understand how things are put together.

Table of contents

  • Addition and Subtraction
  • Word Problems
  • Place Value
  • Geometry (Shapes)

Did you know that ladybugs have spots on their backs?

If a ladybug has 2 spots on its back and it gets 1 more spot, how many spots will the ladybug have in total?

The lady bug will have 3 spots!

Year 2 maths word problems are like fun puzzles that help us use our maths skills to solve real-life situations. They are essential to year 2 maths, and practising them can help us become maths superstars!

  • We can use addition and subtraction to determine how many cookies are left in a jar, how many friends are on the playground, or even how many apples are in a basket.
  • Understanding place value is like being a number detective. It helps us read big numbers and know the value of each digit, so we can count things like how many toys we have or how many days until our birthday.
  • Measuring things and telling time is like being an explorer in the real world. We can measure how tall we are, how long a pencil is, or even how much water is in a glass. And knowing how to read a clock helps us know when it’s time for fun activities or when it’s time to go to bed.
  • Shapes are like building blocks of the world around us. We can learn about squares, triangles, and circles by looking at objects we see every day. It’s like being a shape detective, finding out how many sides and corners they have, and how they fit together like puzzle pieces in year 2 maths questions.

All of these skills are necessary for year 2 maths practice! Use these 45 maths questions to go over important maths skills needed to strengthen your student’s understanding and knowledge.

Today, we are going to practise different year 2 maths skills that cover measurement, addition and subtraction, and more! Once you are done, check your work with our answer sheet!

Section 1: Addition & subtraction

Section 2: word problems, section 3: place value, section 4: geometry (shapes), section 5: time.

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problem solving question year 2

Time answer sheet

problem solving question year 2

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Lesson credits

problem solving question year 2

Michelle Griczika

Michelle Griczika is a seasoned educator and experienced freelance writer. Her years teaching first and fifth grades coupled with her double certification in elementary and early childhood education lend depth to her understanding of diverse learning stages. Michelle enjoys running in her free time and undertaking home projects.

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A new KS2 maths challenge every day. Perfect as lesson starters - no prep required!

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Free Year 2 Maths Worksheets And Homework: Printable, Downloadable Or Just View Online

Sophie bessemer.

Here you can find all our free Year 2 maths worksheets and Year 2 maths resources, many of which are suitable for homework and home learning .

All our KS1 and KS2 maths worksheets are printable and most are in pdf format, but they can also be viewed online too. If you’re looking for other slides-based teaching resources and lesson plans, we recommend you look at our range of White Rose maths lessons.

The hope is that these pdf Year 2 maths worksheets and free resources can be used with minimal support from parents as part of a 6 or 7 year old’s Year 2 maths homework routine and by teachers as part of a planned lesson framework.

For parents working with their children at home we would recommend you focus on practising and improving pupils’ core numeracy skills using the numbers worksheets as these generally require less input than topics like geometry – 2d shapes and 3d shapes. Place value and number after all are the building blocks of Key Stage 1 and later Key Stage 2 maths.

We have also included some telling the time worksheets; these will require support from a teacher or parent but the method used is truly revolutionary.

National curriculum guidance is given where relevant and each Year 2 worksheet includes answer sheets.

If you’re a parent then our home learning hub is full of home learning packs , workbooks, tips and further teaching ideas for Year 2 Maths at home and maths homework . 

If you’re a teacher or school leader who is interested in improving maths attainment in your school or classroom, then Third Space Learning is here to support you with our online tutoring programme of maths interventions , together with maths resources and CPD.

Free Year 2 Maths Worksheets and Tests

Register now with the Third Space Maths Hub (Use Chrome) to download all our free Year 2 maths worksheets, workbooks and resources

Year 2 Free Place Value Worksheets

Year 2 free addition, subtraction, multiplication, division worksheets, year 2 free fractions worksheets , other year 2 free worksheets , also in this series…, year 2 maths worksheets on place value: worked examples.

Understanding place value is essential for all children of any age. In Year 2, children will need to know the value of digits in a two digit number as well as comparing numbers and continuing sequences. This worksheet shows children common errors that are made in the place value topic. Children then become ‘the teacher’ and check the answers and explain any errors they find. 

Download Year 2 place value worksheets: Worked Examples

Year 2 Maths Worksheets on addition and subtraction: Worked Examples

In Year 2, children will focus on adding and subtracting 2-digit numbers. It is important that children know addition and subtraction facts they were taught in Year 1, for example number bonds . This worksheet focuses on a range of addition and subtraction problems that have been incorrectly solved. Children will need to check and correct questions such as subtracting using a bar model, using known facts and missing number problems. 

Download Year 2 addition and subtraction worksheets: Worked Examples

Year 2 maths worksheets addition and subtraction worked examples

Year 2 Maths Worksheets on multiplication and division: Independent Recap

Children will start to focus on more formal methods of multiplication and division when in Year 2, including understanding patterns in the 2s, 5s and 10s times tables . These worksheets allow children to work independently on the ten times tables, odd and even numbers, grouping and sharing through a range of question types (word problems, fluency questions and so on). 

Download Year 2 multiplication and division worksheets: Independent Recap

Year 2 Maths Worksheets on multiplication and division: Worked Examples

There are many misconceptions that can form when first looking at multiplication and division. This worksheet focuses on addressing common misconceptions or errors in multiplication and division. The worksheet covers understanding what equal groups are, the relationship between repeated addition and multiplication as well as finding missing numbers in given calculations. 

Download Year 2 multiplication and division worksheets: Worked Examples

Year 2 Maths Worksheets on times tables: Ultimate Times Tables 

In Year 2, children will start to learn their times tables after learning to count in 2s, 5s and 10s in Year 1. These games are a fun way of learning times table facts, including the related inverse division calculations.  

Download Year 2 times tables worksheets: Ultimate Times Tables

Year 2 Maths Worksheets on fractions: Independent Recap

There is a lot of new vocabulary introduced in fractions in Year 2 (including the use of actual fractions). These worksheets allow children to work independently through the new vocabulary and concepts introduced, so would be useful for homework or home learning tasks. The worksheets work through unit fractions and non-unit fractions, finding a half and finding a quarter. For each worksheet, there is at least one question that encourages children to explain their answers and develop their reasoning skills. 

Download Year 2 fractions worksheets: Independent Recap

Year 2 Maths Worksheets on fractions: Worked Examples

Many children struggle with the concept of fractions. At a young age, children can develop a range of misconceptions that could under them in future years. This worksheet aims to identify common misconceptions and errors children make in the Year 2 fractions topic (such as a fraction being equal parts) and encourage them to discuss them. 

Download Year 2 fractions worksheets: Worked Examples

Third Space Learning online intervention lesson slide for year 2 fractions

Year 2 Maths Worksheets for improving mental maths skills, arithmetic and fluency: Fluent in Five

We recommend every primary school child starts their day with Fluent in Five. It’s 5-10 minutes of daily arithmetic questions and is available for every primary school year group. In Year 2 children have 3 questions per day to answer. They are given prompts of concrete or pictorial resources (such as counters or number lines) they could use to help them solve the question presented to them. You’d be amazed at how quickly young people will build their number confidence with this resource. 

Download Year 2 arithmetic worksheets: Fluent in Five

Year 2 Maths worksheets for telling the time

For some reason learning to tell the time proves a challenge for most children, regardless of their prior attainment in maths. If you have a child who’s struggling with telling the time these worksheets provide a step by step process to help them master it. The key is to start with a number line.

Download KS1 telling the time: Activity Worksheets

Year 2 maths games worksheets and activities

Getting children fully engaged can be a struggle at times, especially towards the end of the summer term. We have over 20 great ideas for KS1 maths games which bring out the fun side of problem solving and get children excited about maths. Each gameplay outline includes a ‘What You Will Need’ section, so that you can be fully prepared to bring out Fraction Snap or Subtraction Bowling during your next lesson.  

Download Year 2 maths games and activities resource pack

Read More: 25 Fun Maths Games For Kids To Do At Home For Free!

  • Year 3 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 6 & 7 Year Olds
  • Year 3 Maths Worksheets
  • Year 4 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 7 & 8 Year Olds
  • Year 4 Maths Worksheets
  • Year 5 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 9 & 10 Year Olds
  • Year 5 Maths Worksheets
  • Year 6 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 10 & 11 Year Olds
  • Year 6 Maths Worksheets

Do you have students who need extra support in maths? Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons and maths interventions designed to address learning gaps and boost progress. Since 2013 we’ve helped over 162,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians. Learn more or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.

Primary school tuition targeted to the needs of each child and closely following the National Curriculum.

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Reasoning and Problem Solving Questions Collection - KS1 and KS2

Reasoning and Problem Solving Questions Collection - KS1 and KS2

Subject: Mathematics

Age range: 5-7

Resource type: Worksheet/Activity

White Rose Education's Shop

Last updated

10 March 2023

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problem solving question year 2

These booklets each contain over 40 reasoning and problem solving questions suitable for KS1, KS2 and KS3 classes. These are the questions that we have been putting out each day in March 2016 on Twitter in the run up to SATS.

The answers are provided with some simple notes at the back of the booklet and for some problems supplementary questions and variation has been provided.

As always we welcome any feedback on the work we are doing and the materials that we are releasing. Thank you for taking an interest in our work. The White Rose Maths Hub Team

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Join the Karate Cats and earn the bronze, silver and gold cups in loads of maths topics in this new adventure.

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Problem-solving maths investigations for year 2.

Hamilton provide an extensive suite of problem-solving maths investigations for Year 2 to facilitate mathematical confidence, investigative inquiry and the development of maths meta skills in 'low floor – high ceiling' activities for all.

Explore all our in-depth problem solving investigations for Year 2 .

Use problem-solving investigations within every unit to encourage children to develop and exercise their ability to reason mathematically and think creatively.

Investigations provide challenges that offer opportunities for the development of the key mathematical skills while deepening conceptual understanding. They are designed to be accessible in different ways to all children. An added bonus is the substantial amount of extra calculation practice they often incorporate! The problems are designed to help children identify patterns, to explore lines of thinking and to reason and communicate about properties of numbers, shapes and measures.

Hamilton provide a mix of our own specially commissioned investigations, that include guidance for teachers together with a child-friendly sheet to guide your pupils through the investigation, as well as links to investigations on other highly regarded websites.

I am very grateful for Hamilton Trust resources, particularly the maths investigations. Julia, teacher in Wiltshire

You can find Hamilton's investigations for Year 2:

  • Individually, they are incorporated into every unit in our Year 2 flexible maths blocks .
  • Collectively, they appear on our resources page where you can explore all our in-depth problem solving investigations for Year 2 .

Do read our extensive range of advice for more information about the investigations and for tips on how to use them effectively.

Hamilton’s problem-solving investigations are 'low floor, high ceiling' activities that give all children opportunities to develop mastery and mathematical meta-skills. Explore a set for a whole year group.

Hamilton’s Problem-solving Investigations provide school-wide solutions to the challenges of building investigative skills from Early Years to Year 6.

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Welcome to the daily solving of our PROBLEM OF THE DAY with Nitin Kaplas . We will discuss the entire problem step-by-step and work towards developing an optimized solution. This will not only help you brush up on your concepts of Tree but also build up problem-solving skills. In this problem, we are given an integer n, return the fibonacci series till the nth(0-based indexing) term. Since the terms can become very large return the terms modulo 10^9+7. Example :

Input: n = 5 Output: 0 1 1 2 3 5 Explanation: 0 1 1 2 3 5 is the Fibonacci series up to the 5th term. Give the problem a try before going through the video. All the best!!! Problem Link: https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/problems/fibonacci-series-up-to-nth-term/1

Video Thumbnail

jess hong posing

Jess Hong Can’t Solve the 3 Body Problem. She’ll Try to Save the World Anyway.

The New Zealand-based Hollywood newcomer stars in a massive project from the creatives behind Game of Thrones . With that comes a few existential questions.

Jess Hong remembers a sweaty morning in Auckland on the day she was chosen—though it’s possible, of course, that was owing to her nerves. She’d miraculously charted through each of the checkpoints into the world of “Untitled Benioff Project,” an as-yet-unannounced Netflix TV series developed by Game of Thrones ’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as former True Blood writer and The Terror co-creator Alexander Woo. “It didn’t really click that it was David Benioff until we had [a] Zoom meeting,” Hong tells me. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m meeting them. But it’s them . What the fuck.’"

3 Body Problem , the first season of which dropped on Netflix on March 21, is Benioff and Weiss’ first major project since Game of Thrones , and a similarly tricky work of translation from book to screen. The series is based on the acclaimed Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, part of the larger Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, in which humanity must prepare for the invasion of an alien species from a three-sun solar system. The extraordinary success of Thrones (no matter its ridiculed ending ) gave its co-creators the leverage to tackle another series largely deemed unadaptable—and to cast an actress like Hong in a leading role.

“Because of the success that they’ve had, they are the big names,” Hong says. “They don’t need to do the whole star system thing to get people interested in the show, because people are interested in them . Which means they can cast someone from New Zealand who’s mostly done theater work, [send her to] London, and be part of the huge thing.”

jess hong as jin cheng in episode 102 of 3 body problem

Hong downloaded the Earth’s Past trilogy on her Kindle shortly after she was cast. (She’ll admit to skimming some sections: They’re “pretty dense, I’m not going to lie.”) The character of Jin Cheng first appears in the third book, so Hong had an existing character portrait to work with, even if Benioff, Weiss, and Woo had taken significant liberties with where and how Jin would show up in the adaptation. In Netflix’s take, Jin is a physicist—or, “a senior researcher in the Theoretical Physics group at Imperial College, doing a metastudy analyzing the results of particle accelerator experiments around the world,” as she tells one would-be suitor in the first episode—born in Hubei, China, where her parents died in a flood. She spent the rest of her childhood and adolescence in New Zealand before moving to London, eventually embedding herself with the so-called “Oxford Five,” a group of brilliant young scientists whose careers have since veered into sectors as divergent as public-school teaching, nanofiber development, and snack manufacturing. When one of their former mentors dies by apparent suicide, the Oxford Five reunite as particle accelerator experiments around the world go haywire. As one Five member puts it early on, “Science is broken.” Spoiler alert: Those aforementioned aliens, known as the San-Ti, might have something to do with it.

As Jin is pulled into a much larger and more significant plot to either a) pave the way for the San-Ti or b) curtail their threat to humanity, her instinct at every interval is to absorb as much information as she can. She can’t, after all, fight an enemy she doesn’t recognize. In episode 3, one Five member named Will (Alex Sharp)—who’s long nursed a powerful crush on Jin—tells her, “Maybe there’s more to life than knowing everything.” To which Jin responds with raised eyebrows and a self-serious smirk: “Unlikely.”

“I believe the reason that she fights so hard and never gives up when solving problems is that she believes the world can be a better place on the other side,” Hong says. “‘If we just solve all the riddles of the universe, then the world will be better for everyone in it,’ including her friends and herself. The way to save the world is just to know everything. That’s her method, but her intention is about people at the end of the day.”

jess hong sitting on the floor in a white jumpsuit

It’s an inclination Hong can relate with, even if her methods are more interior—and markedly less scientific. (She’s not a physicist, and no, she doesn’t understand the real three-body problem from which the series gets its name.) But she got into acting with the express purpose of understanding herself. In the “small-ish,” “quite conservative” town of Palmerston North (population under 100,000), she “grew up incredibly shy and socially anxious, which a lot of people wouldn’t believe now,” she says. Raised by her mom, a single immigrant parent—Hong’s mother is from Guangzhou, China; her father is from Shanghai—Hong often felt isolated in her majority-white community. She enrolled in drama classes “because it was the scariest thing I could think of doing when I was 13.”

At first, her thrill wasn’t in the performing itself, but in her heightened self-awareness. “As soon as we were allowed to write our own monologues, I got really into it because I could pour myself into my characters,” Hong says. “I thought that acting was therapy, because suddenly I was experiencing catharsis on a level that I’d never felt. It was very, very self-indulgent at the beginning for me. And so I got addicted to it that way.” Only then did she improve her actual acting skills, and begin to take pleasure in projecting her character’s emotional highs and lows onto an audience. “I actually got into it pretty late as a way to boost my confidence, and it worked way too well,” she says, laughing. “Now, I’m way too loud.”

She went on to study at Toi Whakaari , New Zealand’s national drama school in the capital city of Wellington. “Three years of the best and worst years of my life,” Hong says, “as anyone who’s been to drama school will tell you.” In her last year of school, she secured an agent, and after graduation in 2019, she moved to Auckland to wait tables and blend coffees as she tossed audition tapes into the ether. For a time, she lived with somewhere around 20 artists in a commune, during which the residents would throw a weekly watch party for Game of Thrones ’ final season. Hong never made it to one of these events—she was always too busy juggling part-time jobs—but doesn’t fail to note the irony.

jess hong standing against a fence

The youngest of three sisters, Hong had always felt her siblings’ implicit support of her career path, if not their understanding. While dropping her off at drama school, one of them noted their pride at her commitment to acting. “I bawled my eyes out because I’d never heard her say that before,” Hong says. “That was the first time, and I’m emotional just thinking about it. I was like, ‘What the hell? After all the shit that I’d done? After everything I put them through?’ I was a bratty kid!”

When 3 Body Problem finally came around, neither sister could truly comprehend the significance of the role Hong had secured. When they found out she’d be moving to London for the shoot, they recommended a website where Hong could hunt down inexpensive accommodations. She told them there was no need; Netflix would be footing the bill for her stay. “[My sisters] went, ‘What?’” Hong says. “‘Wait, how big is this thing?’”

As it turned out, huge. Some of Hong’s earliest days on set were spent filming the show’s massive VR sequences, which take place inside a video-game world where the humanoid characters seek survival against their three-sun solar system’s erratic planetary climate. Working with Thrones alum John Bradley in a number of these complex scenes, Hong slowly learned to combat her own homesickness with the help of her Oxford Five co-stars. “Every now and then I’d turn to John and just be like, ‘Wow, our job’s really fucking weird,’” she says.

.css-1aear8u:before{margin:0 auto 0.9375rem;width:34px;height:25px;content:'';display:block;background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-1aear8u:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/elle/static/images/quote.fddce92.svg);} .css-1bvxk2j{font-family:SaolDisplay,SaolDisplay-fallback,SaolDisplay-roboto,SaolDisplay-local,Georgia,Times,serif;font-size:1.625rem;font-weight:normal;line-height:1.2;margin:0rem;margin-bottom:0.3125rem;}@media(max-width: 48rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.125rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 40.625rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.125rem;line-height:1.2;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.25rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 73.75rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.375rem;line-height:1.2;}}.css-1bvxk2j b,.css-1bvxk2j strong{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;}.css-1bvxk2j em,.css-1bvxk2j i{font-style:italic;font-family:inherit;}.css-1bvxk2j i,.css-1bvxk2j em{font-style:italic;} I just hope that, in this world of hype culture, something like this … a character-driven story, is still enough to hold audiences across the globe.”

The main cast launched a group chat named “Physics Five + Raj,” allowing actor Saamer Usmani—who plays Jin’s military boyfriend, Raj—into the club. (The actors have gotten the names “Oxford Five” versus “Physics Five” confused on more than one occasion, but the name persists.) As a group, they’ve become something of a found family. “Obviously David and Dan have a history of getting together huge ensembles that don’t want to kill each other in real life,” Hong says. “They have an instinct about people, I think.”

3 Body Problem —for all its lofty hard science and sweeping themes about significance and extinction and what we owe the future—is ultimately a more intimate saga, content foregoing epic interstellar showdowns in favor of one-on-one conversations and slower-moving twists… at least for the time being. It’s a television model that feels older, more exploratory, if imperfectly executed. Hong understands the risk, and hopes the show will nevertheless draw a strong audience in the era of the “gourmet cheeseburger” Hollywood model , as coined by one of Netflix’s own vice presidents. “I just hope that, in this world of hype culture, something like this … a character-driven story, is still enough to hold audiences across the globe,” Hong says. “Because it’s such good writing, and [the creators] have done an incredible job to bring it all together into a really, really complex cross-section of humanity in its response to existential stuff.”

With that desire comes a plea for continuing the show through its natural conclusion. “I really hope that we get a season 2,” Hong says, “because Jin Cheng is one of the coolest, juiciest characters I’ve ever played. But also I’ve read the books, so I know what’s coming. It would be awesome to have to justify those decisions and enter those worlds.”

jess hong posing with one arm over her head

As we near the end of our allotted interview time, Hong blinks into the Zoom screen and leans back in her chair. She’s dressed in press-tour glam—an ivory halter-neck dress, bright red lipstick—but her eyes have filled with tears as she considers what the full arc of this extraordinary Hollywood debut has taught her. “It’s interesting that I’m getting emotional about this,” she observes, struggling to keep her voice steady. Jin Cheng, she argues, is an idealist, no matter the assumed skepticism of her craft. Hong, too, is an idealist, and considers her optimism hard-won in the years since her “jaded” youth. Tasked with tackling the scientific problems imparted by a new threat to humanity, Jin might be one of the most important people on Earth in 3 Body Problem ’s fictional reality. Hong, by contrast, was plucked from what she might call obscurity. But they are similarly interested in the fundamental value of a single human life, and in the belief that those individual lives must align into a path for the whole’s survival.

“I never want to give up on giving every single person the benefit of the doubt in this world that is so suspicious and divided,” Hong says. “And I don’t want other people to give up, either.”

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