There are several different ways to teach kindergarten addition, but they can all be boiled down to a few general steps.  The child first learns to recognize numbers, to count, and to understand the idea of greater and lesser quantities.  The idea of adding starts with activities where small groups of objects are combined into larger groups.  Later, the students learn the meaning of the plus and equals sign and to combine these with numerals to write addition problems.

Here is one way to introduce that first “real” addition lesson.  Give each child ten counters (plastic discs, edible candies, plastic bears, or something along these lines – candy is popular with the kindergarteners), a piece of paper, and a crayon.  Explain that we are going to learn a new way to write about numbers.

Start by asking the children to select two counters and place them in front of them and write the number “2” on their paper.  Demonstrate by drawing two counters on the board and writing the number two.  Next ask for them to select one more counter and sit it next to the two already selected and write a number one beside the number two, with a little space.  Draw one more counter near the first two and write the number one near the number two.  Ask the children how many counters are there now.  Write the number “3” on the board and ask the children to do the same on their paper.

Explain that we just saw that two and one is three.  Write a ‘plus’ sign on the board between the 2 and 1 as you say, “and,” and an equal sign as you say the word, “is.”  Take a few minutes to talk about this with the children.  Practice a few more times with different numbers; then allow them to eat the counters if they are edible.  Then clean up.

Introducing kindergarten addition is really as simple as that.  It’s practicing it that takes some time, especially since kindergarten students’ hands aren’t yet strong enough for swift, confident writing.  This is where flash cards and games come in.  Also, writing large on a whiteboard is often much easier than small with a pencil on a page.

Once the idea of addition is introduced, students should practice daily with basic problems – on homework sheets or at the blackboard.  They should practice both forms of notation – horizontal and vertical.  Each will be needed in the future, horizontal for algebra, vertical for multi-digit addition.  Teachers can have students solve single digit addition with three or more addends as well.

The teaching of kindergarten addition in the single digits should also be the subject of fun little math games with the teacher.  “How many are in the box?” a game that involves a leader placing a small number of beans or other counters into a box, then adding a few more.  The students take turns writing out the addition problem needed to find the answer, then counting the total to check.

After learning single digit addition, kindergarten addition students are ready move on to place value, the addition of money, and some double digit addition.  Teach the addition of money at first using coins only.  Once students understand the coins very well and have learned about place value, teach the dollar.  Multi-digit addition should be introduced slowly, with only one addend having two digits at first.

A good game to play for practice with simple addition is “People Counters”.  Invite two students at a time to serve as scribes at the board.  The rest of the class remains seated at one side of the room in a group of “human counters.”  Large classes are an advantage for this game, for double digit addition.  The teacher calls several to stand in a group, asking the scribes to count and to record the number.  The teacher then calls several more for a second group.  The scribes count the second group and write it as the second addend.  The two groups then merge to be counted together and recorded as the answer to the problem.  Repeat until all the children have served as scribes.

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