5 Ways to Teach Addition in Kindergarten

Teaching addition to kindergarten students is definitely a skill that must be practiced and reviewed many times. If you have never introduced addition to kids before, you will want to have some strategies in place before you begin. As a teacher, it is crucial to find ways to make addition more understandable and fun for your students. Here are five tips to help you teach addition effectively in your kindergarten classroom.

Introduce Addition

Adding numbers is a fundamental math skill that kindergarteners need to master. Though it may seem daunting, there are some simple tricks that teachers can use to help their students learn addition. With a bit of patience and some creativity, even the most math-phobic student can succeed in adding numbers. Adding might seem like a fundamental math skill, but it is far more intricate than it appears. When adding, students are not only combining two values to make one new value, but they are also gaining an insight into pattern recognition and problem-solving – skills necessary for higher-level math. As children first learn adding in kindergarten, they often use ten frames or number bonds to help visualize the process of adding two numbers together. This allows them to observe the patterns of adding, and over time they can hone their adding skills until they no longer need the visual cues. Addition is essential to all aspects of mathematics, so start with the basics and build upon your knowledge!

addition activity

Adding with Ten Frames

It’s easiest to think backward from a skill. What is everything they need to know before you actually teach a skill? With the normal idea of addition, they have to know number sense and they have to be able to identify numbers. I like to start by combing sets of objects and working from there. This is easily done with ten frames. One way I love combining sets is with ten frames that are not filled in from left to right.

On both rows, you can fill in as many frames as needed. However, it does not need to go all the way to 5 before you can add some at the bottom. I do like to keep them “clustered” together so students can visually see that as a grouping instead of multiple groupings across the ten frame.

 

Adding with Number Bonds

Number bonds are not my favorite way to teach addition, but over the years I have learned to appreciate them. Number bonds help students to see the bigger picture of combining numbers and sets all before adding in any symbols or making addition sentences. I like to use the ___ and ___ is ____ with my number bonds. You can also use this in place of addition sentences before you introduce symbols. It helps them to see that we are combining something, but they don’t have to remember symbols or learn how to write two more things before getting combinations down.

Mini erasers is a simple manipulative to add in with number bonds. I print off a large number bond and either place it in a page protector or laminate it. If I’m pressed for time, the sheet protector works well. We begin with all three circle empty. I tell them how many to place in each of the smaller circles and then we combine the objects to get the bigger circle. It’s super simple, but this will be very difficult for students that need a bit of extra time

Adding with Quick Images

Yes, I know. This isn’t necessarily adding, but hear me out. If you have never heard of quick images, they can be used as part of your daily routine. Quick images are sets of objects, counters, dots, or really anything that can be counted. You quickly flash the set of images to the students. This can be on printed cards or on your Smartboard. Quickly means like 3 seconds or less. Students will learn to take a mental picture of it with their “mental camera” that they have. Then, they are able to mentally begin to combine sets.

quick images ten frame on board

If they see 2 in one cluster and 3 in another cluster, they will start to say things like, “I saw 2 over there and 3 at the bottom.” When they give you a total, they will come up with 5, hopefully. This may not come easily in the beginning, but over time they will work towards mentally adding the objects. I print and laminate a set of ten frames to have at my table for small groups and I have a ten frame PowerPoint that can be used manually or I can press play and it runs automatically through the ten frames. I just give my students a device to write on, with the Doodle Buddy app, or they grab a whiteboard and dry erase marker. It’s perfect for an easy no prep activity. You can find the number sense activities here.

Adding with Drawings

If your class has 1:1 devices and you can add your own apps, you need Doodle Buddy or something similar. If you don’t, a whiteboard and marker will work for this. I make up “addition story problems” and have my students draw them out. We keep them super simple and the sums are 5 or less when we first start this. One emphasis is not too much detail in the objects because that takes way too much time

An example of a story may be, “One duck was in the water at the pond. Two ducks walked over.”  Students should draw one duck in the pond and one on the other side. They cannot be next to each other. Then, I ask them to point to where they drew “One duck was in the water” and where they drew “Two ducks walked over.” This helped them to see there are two different groups.

Another spin on this is to print out a scene, laminate it and give students manipulatives. You can do story problems this way as well. I have a pond that we use for addition and it’s super easy to use. They grab their manipulatives from their toolkit and I give each of them a pond. You can grab the free pond printout here.

Adding with Dice

One of the nosiest ways to practice addition is with using dice. There are ways to keep the noise down by having students to throw in a basket or cup with felt at the bottom or dice in a bottle. Dice in a bottle is one of my favorite ways to add dice together. I take an old water bottle, add in one or two dice, water and a little glitter for fun. The cap needs to be glued shut so students don’t open it. Then, they shake the bottle, hold it over their head and the number that lands on the bottom of the is the number. If you added two dice, they will add the dots on each of the dice to get their sum.

I like to use this with open addition sentences. Different colored dice are great to use for this. If you use red and green dice, I teach them to write a certain color first. This helps them to remember what numbers they have. This is good for students that can remember two numbers. If they can’t, I allow them to shake twice. Once for the red dice and then again for the green dice.

The bottle adds a bit of excitement and students are happy to practice adding without realizing they are learning. They get really pumped to see how fast they can shake and get their number. Their addition facts can become fluent a lot faster when adding in an activity like this. Why? They are enjoying what they are doing and they want to get their answers correct. You can grab a Shake and Add sheet here.

 

Adding with various manipulatives, objects and in different ways will help to keep students engaged and wanting to participate. Adding might seem like a fundamental math skill, but it is far more intricate than it appears. When adding, students are not only combining two values to make one new value, they are also gaining an insight into pattern recognition and problem solving – skills necessary for higher-level math. As children first learn adding in kindergarten, they often use ten frames or number bonds to help visualize the process of adding two numbers together. This allows them to observe the patterns of adding, and over time they can hone their adding skills until they no longer need the visuals cues. Addition is essential to all aspects of mathematics, so start with the basics and build upon your knowledge!

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