Teaching Addition in Kindergarten (Lesson Ideas, Centre Ideas + Freebies!)

*This post has been updated with new photos + freebies on June 10, 2024*

Wow the year is flying by! I can't believe we are working on addition already!

Read on to grab some ideas for teaching addition :)

Addition Lessons:

Day 1:

On the first day I just introduce addition and tell them that addition is like composing numbers, we just use different symbols.  Instead of using "and" and "make" we use "+" and "=".

Day 2:

On the second day we go over the learning goal and success criteria.  The learning goal is "we are learning to solve addition sentences" and the success criteria is "I know I can do this when I can put the numbers in the number sentence together and say or write the answer."

Then we play the game "Collect & Add".

How to Play:

Before you play hide small objects around the room (I usually use Easter eggs since we typically teach addition right around Easter and the kids love looking for Easter eggs!)

1. Have the students sit in a circle and put 2 hoola hoops in the middle.
2. Write an addition sentence frame ( ___ + ___ = ___ ) on chart paper or on the whiteboard.
3. Tell students that you will pick 2 students at a time to collect as many Easter eggs as they can within a set amount of time (start small, e.g. 10 seconds).
4.  Demonstrate first with a partner (your teaching partner or a responsible student if you are on your own). First assign each person a hoola hoop.  Press start on the timer and demonstrate how to go and find an egg, bring it back and put it into your hoola hoop.  You may want to go over some rules such as walking feet only, you can only retrieve 1 egg at a time etc.
5.  Keep collecting until the timer rings.  When the timer rings have both players come back to the carpet.  Count all the eggs in the first hoola hoop.  Write the number in the addition sentence frame.
6. Count all the eggs in the second hoola hoop.  Write the number in the addition sentence frame.
6.  Solve the addition sentence by counting all the eggs.  Write the answer in the addition sentence frame.

Repeat as time allows.
Make the time on the timer longer each time so that the equations get harder.

Day 3:

On the third day we play the "Collect & Add" game again as it's always a popular game and the kids often want a turn if they hadn't gotten one yet!

Day 4:

On the fourth day we start talking about addition strategies.

I introduce all five strategies but we focus on "use your fingers" first.

I tell them that we can solve addition problems by using our fingers.
Then we watch "When You Add With a Pirate" by Harry Kindergarten.
I model how to use fingers as the pirates read their addition stories and prompt the kids to follow along and practice too.

Day 5:

Next we talk about the strategy "count on".
We talk about how sometimes we won't have enough fingers to solve an addition question and "count on" is a strategy we can use.

I write some addition sentences that have a sum between 11-15.  Then I model how to "count on" by putting the bigger number in my head and then holding up the number I'm going to add on and counting up.  We practice this together a few times to get use to it.

Day 6:

Next we practice the strategy "use manipulatives".

First we talk about different manipulative we could use for addition in our classroom.  Some common suggestions are snap cubes, counting bears and linking chains.

Then, I have the kids sit in a circle and pull out the big foam dice.
Then I have a student come and roll the die and build the number with snap cubes.
Then I have a second student come and roll the die and build the number with snap cubes.
Then we write the addition sentence, put all the cubes together, count the cubes and write the answer.

We repeat as time allows to practice.

Day 7:

Next we practice the strategy "draw a picture".

I write this question on the board.

____ has 2 dogs.  ____ has 3 cats.  How many animals do they have all together?
(I always use the names of the kids in the class in word problems.  They get such a kick out of it!)

Then I demonstrate how to draw a picture to show this problem.  I draw 2 dogs and 3 cats and then we touch and count each animal to figure out how many animals there are all together.  

I do tell them that this isn't art class but a math strategy so it is ok if the pictures aren't very detailed.  I want them to know that a quick sketch is just find :)

Day 8:

Next we practice the strategy "use a number line".

First I write a number sentence on the board.
For example I might write 

5 + 2 =

Then I show them how to put a dot on the first number on the number line (the 5) then to hop 2 spots to the left to get the answer.

We practice this a few times with different equations.

Day 9:

On the last day we review all 5 strategies.

I read them this question

____ has 4 toys and ____ has 6 toys.  How many toys do they have all together?
(Again I use names of the kids in our class for the blanks).

Then I ask them "How can we solve this addition problem?"

I have them give me the first solution.  Then I ask them if anyone can think of a different way.  I try to keep going until we talk about all or almost all of the strategies.

Of course we practice, practice, practice during centre time too!

Here are some of the addition centres we use to practice:

Addition Centres:

1. My Book of Domino Addition

I set out this booklet with a basket of dominos.  I have the kids pick a domino, copy the domino onto the booklet and then write the number sentence to match.

 2. Snap Cube Addition

This one is popular ever year! The kids read the cards and snap that many snap cubes of each colour and then add them together! I put out some magnetic numbers so students can use them to record their answers with them!

3. Parking Lot Addition

So many of my students (especially the ones that I have the hardest time engaging in academic centres) have been obsessed with toy cars so I knew this one would be a hit! Practice addition to five by parking the cars in the parking lot!

4. Pizza Addition

The kids love putting toppings on a pizza to practice addition facts! They can simply pick a magnetic number from the tub, build the number, pick another number, build that number and then add the two numbers together and complete the addition sentence!

Here is what I used for the toppings (but you can use whatever you like/have on hand that is a similar colour!):

Pepperoni: Red pom poms
Mushrooms: Mushroom shapes cut out of light brown felt
Green Peppers: Green pipe cleaners (I just bent them to make them look like peppers you would find on a pizza)
Olives: Black pony beads
Pineapple: Yellow snap cubes
Ham: Pink felt, cut into squares

5. Addition Town

Help the builder build the buildings by solving the addition sentences and a tower with that many cubes on it! The kids love the idea of helping the builder :)

6. Counting Bear Addition

I have the students roll the colour dice and the regular dice into the bin and build that many bears of that colour on the mat.  Then they roll again and build the second number in the second colour.  Then they add the 2 colours together and show me the corresponding number sentence.  I set out both expo markers and magnets so that the kids could choose to build or write the numbers.

7. Add with a Number Line

This is a simple centre to practice the strategy "Add with a Number Line"! The frog and bunny pointers make it extra fun as they can use it to hop along the number line ;)

8. Domino Add & Cover

Another simple but fun way to practice addition with dominos! Students can be invited to pick a domino, add the two sides and place it on the sum!

9. Popcorn Add + Sort

My kiddos love anything food related and this one helps students see that many equations can have the same sum! Simple print, cut and set out ;)

   10. Roll, Add & Cover/Colour

This has been a popular freebie for years! Students can play by themselves (roll, add and cover or colour until they fill up their board) or play with a partner and see who can colour or cover their board first!

You can grab this freebie by clicking here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vD403BNdyq3nZ0fSlhea0M5aDDKUaY0E/view?usp=sharing or on the button below

11. Addition Word Problems

I only put these our if we did the word problem as a whole group first or we do them in small groups! It's a great way to combine fine motor practice (pencil/glue/scissors skills) and addition at the same time :)

12. Addition Flashcards

I typically use these for assessment but I have also put them out at a table with a variety of manipulatives and recording sheets and some students really love it! There are flashcards with sums to 5, sums to 10, sums to 15 and sums to 20.

This recording sheet is versatile and can be added to any of the centres above that don't come with a recording sheet, if your students want to record their work!

We add these addition strategy bookmarks to our math wall after the strategies are introduced and students can take one to their table if they need a refresher on the different strategies they can use to solve addition sentences.

13. Pirate Addition Mini Book (Free!)

My own little guy loves the pirate addition song (linked near the top of this blog post) so I made this pirate addition mini book for him to practice with!

Students count the number of items in each box, record them in the addition sentence at the bottom, count all of the pictures and write the sum in the last blank!

You can grab this freebie here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1i4MXuz-iFH1IgGCwdr9MDDrb8yv3J30E/view?usp=sharing or by clicking on the button below!

All of the centres you see in this blog post (other than the freebies) and more can be found in my addition unit on TPT.

You can click here or on the images below if you are interested in checking it out :)

If you prefre digital lessons + follow-up activities/centres I also have a Google Slides version! You can find that by clicking on any of the images below:

I hope you were able to grab some ideas for teaching addition!
What fun activities do you plan when you teach addition?

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