Fun Strategies to Teach Addition

Thinking back on your own elementary school days, did you have fun learning math facts? No? Me neither! When I was a student in elementary school, I can clearly remember the drill worksheets that I completed every day. I remember having 20-25 addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems on a plain white sheet of paper. That’s how I learned these operations: drill practice. I’m sure many of you did, too! However, that’s not how we teach in the world of social media and instant gratification. We need to be engaging! We need to bring on the fun and interest in learning! So here it is: a box full of fun strategies to teach addition!

CRA Approach to Teaching

Before we get into fun addition strategies, let’s back up and talk a little bit about how young students learn math. It’s important to me to discuss this because it leads directly into what great math instruction looks like, and great math instruction is naturally more engaging and fun!

Numbers, both written and oral, are very abstract concepts to little learners. They aren’t familiar with quantifying things, and they don’t know standard measurements or how reasonable or not an answer is going to be. Every great unit in math should follow the CRA approach, which stands for Concrete-Representational-Abstract.

The name of this method literally tells you the components that you need for quality mathematics instruction. First, using the term “concrete”- every new concept should begin with students using concrete tools. In kindergarten and first grade, these tools include:

  • base ten blocks
  • red/yellow counters
  • teddy bear counters
  • unifix cubes
  • literally anything that can be moved and counted!

If you begin incorporating the Concrete into your lessons, guess what? FUN happens in math! I think sometimes it’s easy to feel the time crunch and skip this part, but it is SO SO crucial for these kiddos to physically see, count and talk about the math they are trying to learn. Do you know what the best part about implementing more concrete teaching is? It’s EASY! You can use anything to count, add, subtract and measure. Here are some of my favorites:

  • marshmallows
  • mini erasers from Target Dollar Spot
  • Fruit Loops
  • fuzzy pompoms
  • Skittles
  • marbles

Fun Strategies for Addition

Now we can talk about some fun strategies to teach addition! These are all games that I’ve played with my classes throughout the years, and they’ve loved them! The best part is that they’re very low-prep but are super engaging.

  • Write Around the Table: Students use their whiteboards to solve addition problems written on index cards at their table. They start with their own chair, and once everyone has solved their problem they rotate clockwise to the next chair. The first table to finish wins!
  • Stop, Drop and Add: When I ring the chime, everybody stops what they are doing and solves the addition problem that I spin on our class spinner. We go right back to work after we have the solution!
  • Mystery Match: Students have either an addition problem or a solution taped under their chairs. They have to find their match sometime throughout the day: at recess, lunch, etc. and whoever has their match at the end of the day gets a treat. It’s a great way to have them talking about math all day long!
  • Spin and Win: Students choose a number as their solution and write it on their whiteboards (just one number). I spin the classroom spinner with addition equations, and whoever has the correct number written for the solution gets a treat!

Addition Room Transformation

My very favorite addition activity is Addition Café!

Fun Addition Room Transformation

I transformed my classroom into a café, complete with Italian music and a view on the SMARTboard! I wore my chef’s hat and apron, and welcomed them into the classroom in Italian; they had no idea what I was saying. But when they walked in, they were AMAZED!

Addition cafe room transformation
addition cafe room transformation

Each table was set with plates from a different course: breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. In the center of the table were the menus with prices. Every kiddo received a recording sheet and started at their regular seat. Then they had to use the menu to add up the total for the food on their plate and record it.

After about ten minutes, when most kiddos had added up every plate at their table, we rotated to the next course. Repeat x2 so everyone got the chance to visit every table.

They loved it!

You can pick up this activity complete and ready in my TPT store here!

Addition Cafe room transformation engagement strategy

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