Basics of Addition

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Level: Primary 1 /  Primary 2  /  Grade 1  /  Grade 2

When children understand what they are doing and why, they feel successful and are eager to do more.

Addition is a mathematical operation. It is a process or action that you do with numbers.

The symbol for this process is + (plus). In this process we combine 2 numbers to make a bigger number.

Example: 4 + 5 means to combine the numbers 4 and 5. The result will be 9.

Here are some ways to help your child learn to add. 

(Click here for some problem sums on Addition and Subtraction.)


  1. Using Real Objects
  2. Number Bonds
  3. Mental Math
  4. Drawing Models
  5. Writing an Addition Statement
  6. Using a Number Line
  7. Using Place Value

Using Real Objects

Give your child 2 groups of counters (pencils, buttons, coins, paper clips or other small things).


Ask her to count the number of items in each group. Refer to the number chart if your child forgets her numbers.


Combine the two groups together and ask her to count the total. Remember to use Math terms like 'plus', 'total', 'sum', 'altogether', 'bigger than', 'smaller than' and 'equal to'.

Ask questions like: "Is 4 bigger or smaller than 6?" or "What is the total number of ....?" or "How many do we have altogether?"

Do this a few times with different numbers of objects. Make it into a game with your child choosing the objects of one group and you choosing the other.

When your child has understood the idea of adding, ask her to say the total before combining the 2 groups and counting.

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Fun Addition Card Games

Card games are an especially fun way for the family to bond and for kids to learn. Here are some kid-friendly cards that I created for you to print out to use in simple games of addition. These cards are also useful if you need an alternative to poker cards.

Click on the picture to download the set you want.

Print out 4 copies of the cards and cut them out. Shuffle the cards and deal out to all the players.

Players place their cards in a pile face down in front of them.
All players open their top card at the same time in the middle of the table.
The goal is to count all the objects in the cards and say the total.

As your child gets better at mental addition, you can make it more challenging to see who can win the cards by being the first to call out the total.

These cards are great because there are no numerals so your child has to rely on recognizing patterns to find the number.

Watch the video to get more ideas on using cards for mental addition.

These cards come in 0, 1, 2 and 3. There are more 1's and 2's than 3's. The more players there are the more fun it is! It helps your child learn to add really fast.

Try it!

Deal the cards to all players. Players all open the top card at the same time. The first player to call out the Total Sum wins the cards.

Number Bonds

Another way of helping your child understand the process of adding is to use the basic Math concept of 'number bonds'.

A number bond shows, in a diagram, two numbers being joined to form a bigger number (as if a number is made up of different parts).

  1. Start with 2 groups of counters.
  2. Let your child count and write the numbers into the 2 circles on the left.
  3. Combine the groups then count and write the number in the single circle on the right.
  4. To help your child understand that different combinations of numbers may give the same total, choose combinations like the following:

                    2 + 6
                    4 + 4
                    7 + 1
    and so on.

    Click here for a set of templates to use with your child.

    Remember to to let your child create questions to test you. The best way to understand a topic is to write questions for others to solve. In this way your child will understand what are the important parts of a question that allows it to be solved.

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Mental Math

Your child needs to learn to do simple mental calculations quickly and accurately in order to do well during exams. One way to do that is to practice addition facts using flash cards, worksheets, games etc.

There are 2 basic sets of facts that will help your child think fast. The first is to add single digit numbers that total up to 10 (ex. 4 + 5).

The second is to add single digit numbers that total more than 10 (ex. 6 + 7).

Number bonds can help your child memorize this second set of facts.  These 2 sets of facts are enough for your child to learn to add any sets of numbers, no matter how big they are.

Click here for flash cards to help your child practice addition facts.

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Drawing Models

You can also draw models to represent numbers. This is a very useful method as it can be used to help your child understand very complicated questions.


You can draw models in 2 ways. The way on the left is the better way to draw the model. The size of the box should correspond to the size of the number. The '{' symbol represents 'sum' or 'total'.

Learn more about the model method.

Click here for some problem sums on Addition and Subtraction.

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Writing An Addition Statement

Once your child has understood the concept of adding numbers, it is time to write it in a Mathematical statement (also called an equation).

This type of statement uses numbers and symbols like + and =.

Each statement is made up of 2 (or more) addends and the sum.


The addends are the numbers that you want to combine. The sum is always bigger than either of the addends.

  1. Start with 2 groups of objects.
  2. After counting the objects, write the numbers on a piece of paper. These are the addends.
  3. Count the total number of objects and write that number down as well. This is the sum.
  4. Now write an Addition Statement with the 3 numbers.

  5. After your child has understood this process, let him practice with sets of 3 numbers that can make up an appropriate combination and let him write the statement on his own.
  6. Remember to ask him to check his answer using real counters.


An addition statement can also be written with the sum first like this:

                    12 = 5 + 7

Click here for some templates that you can print out and use with your child.

Remember to to let your child create questions to test you. The best way to understand a topic is to write questions for others to solve. In this way your child will understand what are the important parts of a question that allows it to be solved.

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Using a Number Line

Once your child is clear on all the different methods of adding, you can teach him to use a number line as a short cut.

  1. Draw a number line.
  2. Write the first addend in the addition statement on the number line.
  3. Count the number of steps that correspond to the second addend.
  4. The number that you land on is the answer.

Click here for some problem sums on Addition and Subtraction.

Using Place Value

Place value helps your child understand bigger numbers

Once your child is used to the idea of addition and number bonds, get him to think of bigger numbers in this way:

53 = 50 + 3
45 = 40 + 5

Or by using place value:

53 = 5 tens and 3 ones
45 = 4 tens and 5 ones

It is now easy to add bigger numbers. From the example above we can see that when we add 53 and 45, we will have a total of 9 tens and 8 ones or or 90 + 8 or 98.


Let's try another one, with a carry over or regrouping:

Add 17 and 29.

17 = 1 tens and 7 ones
29 = 2 tens and 9 ones

17 + 29 = 3 tens and 16 ones (16 ones is 1 tens and 6 ones)
            = 4 tens and 6 ones
            = 46

You can use the same method to add numbers in the hundreds, thousands or even bigger. Your child will soon understand the fixed pattern used in addition.

Click here for some Ones, Tens and Hundreds number tiles.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mental-Math-Addition-using-Number-Bonds-Place-Value-540085



Need more worksheets?  Math Drills

More Topics

Number Sense
Subtraction
Multiplication
Division

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