Addition Activities: Fun Addition Practice for First Graders

Abacus Addition activities are a great way to help kids learn, practice, and master addition facts. Conceptually, kids are beginning to understand that adding is what takes place when the objects in two or more smaller groups come together and make one big group. They are also wrestling with notions of part and whole, and the fact that you can manipulate a group of objects in many ways to make different kinds of addition problems.

How Many Ways?

For this activity, you will need counters that are 2 different colors, one color on each side. You can buy these, or you can make your own by spray painting beans a different color on each side. Start by giving each child a quantity of beans at the level you want to practice. If you want to practice addition facts up to 5, give children 5 beans each.

Have them shake up the beans (like dice) and let them fall on the table. Put the beans of one color in one pile, and those of the other color in a second pile. Count each pile and add them together. You may also ask kids to write down the sums they make that add up to 5. Make several different sums. How many ways could they make 5?

Creative Math Writing

Especially for tactile learners, writing can be an important way to help learn and remember addition facts. You can dictate facts for them to answer, have kids draw pictures to solve a problem, ask them to think of their own addition facts to write, etc. Writing facts over and over on paper is boring, though, and it's really unnecessary. Try some of these fun addition activities for drawing or writing addition facts:

  • Shaving Cream: Spray shaving cream on the table and let kids spread it around to make it smooth. Write or draw in the shaving cream with your finger. It works great, erases with a sweep of the hand, smells good, and cleans up beautifully.
  • Pudding: Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with pudding for the same type of activity as Shaving Cream, only a lot tastier. (I read one online proponent of this idea who lets kids lick their fingers only after a right answer!) One cookie sheet per child, please.
  • Art Supplies: For a more permanent way to remember a math fact, paint it, decorate it, glue pasta to paper in the shape of numbers, make numbers out of pipe cleaners... the sky really is the limit here. And the resultant work of art is likely to highlight an addition problem that won't be easily forgotten.
  • Play Dough: Show kids how to roll balls of dough into long snakes, then make snakes into numbers. Give kids an addition fact, such as 5+2. Ask for some volunteers to show the problem in numbers (5+2=7), and others to make shapes to show the problem with the dough(5 balls and 2 balls make 7 balls). Quick workers can do both.
  • Sidewalk Chalk: Write and illustrate addition facts with chalk on the sidewalk. Anything written with sidewalk chalk is somehow lots more fun than real life. And a good rain will clean that sidewalk right up.
  • Math Facts Flashcards
  • White Boards: Yes, really. Kids LOVE white boards. If it makes them want to write addition problems, it's a winner. Want some easy, portable white boards? Put white card stock in one of those plastic sleeves you get from office supply stores. Instant personal white board, kid-sized.

Giant Number Line

Make a giant number line outdoors using sidewalk chalk, starting at 0. You will also need 2 giant dice, which can be made or purchased.

Number Line

Pick a child to walk the number line and another 2 children to roll the two dice. Have the walker stand on 0, then take steps on the number line to match the amount on one of the dice. Ask: "What number do you think you will be standing on when you add the other number?" Ask the other kids if they think her guess is correct. Then have the walker continue along the number line to add the second number.

There are more cool number line activities on this page.

Beach Ball Adding

Beach Ball Spend a few dollars and buy a large beach ball for this game. With a permanent marker, write numbers from 1 to 10 all over the beach ball. It's ok if numbers are repeated; just mix up where you put them.

To play the game, stand in a circle (if there are many kids) or face to face (if there are just two of you). Throw the ball back and forth. Whenever you catch it, look at where your thumbs landed and add those two numbers together before throwing the ball to the next person.

Counting with Objects

Math Counters for Kids Work in plenty of addition activities that give practice in adding with physical objects or counters. Colored frogs or teddy bears are great for this, as a different color can be used for each set. Put a certain number of frogs of one color in one group, and frogs of another color in another group, then make a big deal of puuusshing them together to add.

Adding with Dominoes

Doing addition activities with dominoes makes math feel like a game. To play, spread out all the dominoes face down, so you can't see the dots. Have a child pick a domino, count the dots on each side, and add the numbers. Cartoon Dominoes For example, if a domino shows 5 and 4, show how to add the two together to make 9. Then write this as a problem: 5+4=9. Now turn the domino around and have kids repeat the process to find and solve the new problem: 4+5=9.

To get points, children must write down both problems and the answer correctly. They will get points that equal the sum; for the 4+5 domino, a child will get 9 points.

NOTE: In first grade, children may not intuitively know that after turning the domino around they will get the same solution. If it looks different, they may have to count the dots all over again to find the answer. Addition activities like this one and Linking Cubes Addition (below) are important for helping kids master this concept.

Linking Cubes Addition

Link Cubes for Addition Activities Linking cubes are a great tool for showing addition problems two ways. Have kids pick some cubes of one color, and a few more of another color, and link them together. One cube and three cubes make 4; write the problem 1+3=4. Then turn the cubes around so it shows 3+1=4, and write this problem as well. Kids can either use the cubes to make problems that are written down, or they can make their own sums with the cubes and then do the writing afterwards. The important thing is to give them plenty of practice seeing the inverse relationship of adding: that 2+4 is the same as 4+2, etc.

Addition Concentration

This is one of the easiest addition activities to teach, since most kids will already know how to play Concentration, or Memory. Get two sets of index cards, each in a different color. Write the addition facts you want your child to practice on one color, and the answers on the other. Mix them up, turn them face down, and have the child pick a card of each color. If the problem and the answer match, she keeps the cards and goes again. The player with the most cards at the end wins. (This is a good adult-child game, as the memory aspect makes either player just as likely to win.)

You might also be interested in the related articles Addition Facts, Adding Doubles, and Addition Games.

For more fun addition practice, we recommend Addition Practice Math Machine, Twist & Shout Addition, and Math Whiz.


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