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How to Teach Addition in Kindergarten?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Today we are going to look at how to teach addition in Kindergarten. Addition is probably the first mathematical operation you teach your students or kids at home and is important as we use it daily in our lives. This blog post explores why teaching addition is important as well as the various addition strategies you will want to explore with your students. We will also look at how to teach addition step by step and some activity ideas too.

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What is the concept of addition for kindergarten?

When introducing addition to kindergarten students you would explain it as a way of combining things and counting them together in one large group. To add means to bring together and combine two objects. It is usually the first mathematical operation that students learn.

Another way to look at addition, is to find the value of two or more numbers. Addition is shown using the “+” symbol in addition calculations.

What is the purpose of addition for kids?

Addition helps children to master relationships between numbers and helps children to understand how quantities relate to one another. Addition is essential for many daily activities such as shopping, dealing with money, telling the time etc.

How to teach addition step by step?

There are various steps to follow to make teaching addition simple. This can be done by exploring different addition strategies. My Addition Strategies pack explores various ways to teach addition and includes a weekly plan too!

What are the strategies for addition problems?

First begin with using plenty of manipulatives such as cubes, loose parts etc. This will give kids concrete materials to use and will help students understand addition more easily as they can visualise clearly what they are adding together.

Next, move on from concrete materials to visuals. You can use pictures of objects to support with addition. This means students can still count something to help them. You can also explore addition with ten frames here. Using ten frames in addition will give students visuals and help with learning about number bonds to 10 and 20. My addition using ten frames task cards are an excellent way to give your students lots of practise at this.

Next, you can use other strategies such as a number line to help with teaching addition. When teaching children how to use this strategy ensure you spend time explaining what number to start on, which way to jump for addition, counting jumps correctly etc. My addition using a number line task cards and worksheets are great resources for giving your class lots of practise at this skill.

Continue to explore other addition strategies such as counting on. This could be where your students have number in their head then count on. This is a great mental strategy to introduce when exploring addition.

Ensure you spend time exploring number bonds. Number bonds are where you have two numbers that make 5, 10, 20 so on. First, look at number bonds to 5, then move onto 10 then 20. The more secure children are with these, the more confident they will be with addition all the up to the thousands.

After your students have mastered number bonds, look at doubles and near doubles. This is very useful for when children get more confident at manipulating numbers to make working out addition problems easier for themselves.

You can also explore addition using the Part Part Whole model. This follows on well from exploring number bonds. You can use a visual here and show how a number can be partitioned into two smaller numbers. My addition using the Part Part Whole model task cards is a great activity to use with smaller groups and will give them lots of practise at this strategy.

Once children have explored numerous ways to carry out addition you can now explore addition word problems. Make sure to spend time talking about the different language used such as “in total”, “combined”, “all together” etc. Practise lots of different addition word problems discussing how to pick out the key information from the problem. Your students will get a lot of practise at this by using my Addition Word Problem Task Cards!

Another aspect of addition that children love to learn about is the commutative law. This is where you can reverse the two numbers you are adding together in your addition problem and still get the same answer. For example, 2 + 3 gives you the same answer as 3 + 2. Children are always amazed when they learn that when you reverse the numbers you get same answer! My addition think boards explore the commutative law and your class will get lots of practise at reversing those numbers!

You can even introduce place value into teaching addition if your students are ready. Explore expanded form and practise adding hundreds, tens and ones together. You will need to ensure your students have the appropriate place value knowledge first.

How to teach addition with activities?

There are so many different activities out there to help with teaching addition, you are truly spoilt for choice. I have broken some suggested activities into groups depending on what strategy you’re exploring.

  • Concrete materials – You can display the addition problem then can children use manipulatives to work out the answer which they can give verbally or written down. A fun activity is where you give your students a dice and they roll two numbers which they add together. You can set up activities around your classroom and display containers with addition problems on them, children then need to count out the correct number of manipulatives into the container to show their answer.

  • Visuals – children can draw a picture to show their thinking when working out an addition problem. Your students can also complete ten frames to help them work out the answer to an addition problem. There are plenty of activities such as worksheets, task cards etc that feature fun visuals when adding.

  • Number lines – You can start with number lines that children can draw their jumps on so they can visually see each jump. You can do this using a worksheet etc. Then, you can move onto using a counter or finger to do the jumps.

  • Counting on – You can practise this strategy by asking your students to calculate an addition problem mentally using different vocabulary. For example, “I am on 5 then I do 3 jumps up the number line what number am I on now” or “I have 3 sweets then I find 4 more, how many sweets do I have now?”

  • Part Part Whole Model – You can draw out or give each student a Part Part Whole model to work with. Then display the addition problem. Your students then write the correct numbers in the correct sections of the model. You can also use concrete materials and count out the correct number of objects and place them onto the correct sections of the model too.

  • Number bonds - You can use ten frames, Part Part Whole models to help develop your student’s understanding of number bonds. Ensure to have lots of displays, prompts around your classroom.

  • Doubles & near doubles – This strategy can also be practised using concrete materials and visuals. You can compare addition problems featuring doubles with problems featuring near doubles and see if your students spot the patterns.

  • Place value – You can give your class a two or three digit number and partition it into hundreds, tens and ones. When exploring this strategy ensure to discuss the calculation. You can use worksheets, task cards and base ten materials to support your students with this.

  • Commutative law – You can practise reversing addition problems and use concrete materials to prove you get the same answer.

Why do students struggle with addition?

One reason students may find addition challenging is their one-to-one correspondence skills when counting needs practise. Students may find it tricky counting out the correct number of objects to add together so will struggle with this.

If a child’s fine motor skills are still developing this can also cause an issue when learning to add as they will find it difficult to count accurately, may misplace cubes, arrange them in a haphazard way, find it tricky to use their finger to do jumps on number line etc.

If a child has learned to count but doesn’t understand the value of each number this can cause a student to struggle with addition. We need to ensure that students have good number sense and can accurately count out the correct number of objects when given.

How do you teach addition to struggling students?

Ensure to give your students lots of practise at developing counting skills. Encourage students to take time when counting, arrange objects into an array that is easier to count eg: a line or in 2s etc. Encourage children to touch each object when counting. This will be important if children are at the stage of using concrete materials when adding.

If fine motor skills are causing problems, giving students materials that they find easy to use and manipulate will help. If children are using a number line ensure it is big enough for them to use their finger or draw jumps on easily.

Ensure children have developed their number sense. If you plan to teach addition up to 10, students need to be able to count out the correct number of objects up to 10. Give children lots of practise at counting out different things. You can have lots of counting activities set up around classroom.


Overall addition is one of the first and most important concepts to teach your students in math and is used on a daily basis in our lives

Keep in mind there are many different strategies of addition to explore and there will be some that your students find easier than others.

Remember, to try and keep teaching addition fun, to keep the interest of your students high, Lots of hands on activities are especially great for kindergarten children.

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