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15 Fun Addition Activities For Beginner Learners

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It’s hard to remember a time when adding was a new skill. We learn it so early and use it so often that it becomes second nature. But for children in pre-K to early elementary grades, addition is brand new — and that’s exciting!

Early math learning begins with counting, but even this most basic skill requires an understanding that you can add to a number or set to increase its value. This is the foundation for all math learning. And even though the concept seems simple, your students discovering they can manipulate numbers opens a world of possibilities.

With fun activities and lots of practice, students can master complex math ideas. Here are 15 of our favorite addition activities to keep students engaged, learning and excited about math.

Interactive and artsy addition activities

Young boy works on addition activities with a felt mat in his classroom.

Getting hands-on and creative with math helps abstract ideas come to life.

1. Create ladybug or apple tree addition activities

These are super cute, fun, and hands-on! Draw a large ladybug and provide some dot cutouts. Then have your students roll two dice (or choose two number cards) to create an addition number sentence.

Your students then place the correct number of dots on each side of the ladybug’s wings. For example, rolling a 4 and a 2 would result in the number sentence 4 + 2, meaning 4 dots on the ladybug’s left wing and 2 dots on the right wing. How many total dots are there? 6!

This activity also works great as an apple tree with different colored apples (cutouts, pompoms, or stickers all work). The rest of the activity works in the same way. Choose your favorite or create something new, and have a variety of adding games to appeal to your students. It’s simple and creative adding fun!

2. Teach regrouping with pom poms and other toys

Regrouping activities are a great way for kids to simplify math problems. For example, 24 + 19 can be regrouped to make four sets of 10 with three leftover. Help your students see the math with some of their favorite small toys!

If they love cars, legos, pom poms, pipe cleaners or shiny gemstones, use them! Any small collection will work. Your students can spend time gathering, counting and sorting objects to find the correct answer, learning all along the way.  

3. Try ten frames with coloring, marshmallows, legos, or other fun toys

Ten frames are a classic tool your students can easily master. And they’re incredibly effective for helping students visualize and identify numbers. You can keep your ten-frame lessons fresh by swapping out the classic dots with something new. 

Create a giant ten-frame (a 2x5 array) on the floor with painter’s tape and fill it in with a favorite toy collection. Or ask children to fill their individual ten-frames with a small sweet treat, like marshmallows. Even coloring in their ten frame or choosing puffy stickers can bring a little more fun to this classic lesson.

4. Use number bonds to create addition flowers, windmills, spiders, or jellyfish

Lightbulb moments are so much fun. For some students, realizing two numbers can create a new number feels like magic. Then, when they learn that two completely different numbers can make that same new number — woah!

Help these number bond math facts stick with a fun flower or jellyfish activity. You can even create your own ideas using a central “body” and spokes!

You supply a number in the center of the flower or the jellyfish blob, and then your students add the addition math sentences to match. For a flower, they look like petals. For the jellyfish, tentacles. It’s a unique way for kids to discover those “a-ha!” math moments.

5. Try addition equation color-by-number sheets

Keep math learning colorful with this take on the classic color-by-number pages. The picture is still divided into sections, and colors still correspond with single numbers, but each section is now an addition problem.

 Students must find the solution to discover the correct color. This activity is perfect choice when your students could use a little brain break.

6. Mix math and language arts with storybooks

Storybooks and math are both amazing at helping children understand the world, so why not combine them? A story may be just what your students need to connect numbers back to the real world. 

Any book that features counting can work here. Need a few ideas? Check out detailed storybook math lessons from Scholastic here. Or explore our list of 15 fun math books for students in 1st to 8th grade.   

Addition math games

Kindergartener plays with an abacus during math addition games.

1. Try game-based learning with Prodigy Math

Online math games are an exciting and simple way for students to learn. New addition skills can be practiced without worksheets. And the repetition found in games can help students quickly identify patterns while memorizing math facts. All while having fun!

Prodigy Math is a game-based learning platform for grades 1 to 8. While your students are exploring an exciting fantasy world, free teacher tools help you send addition questions to your students. And while they play, your teacher dashboard automatically collects insights into their learning progress.

It's easy to get started — so sign up today!

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2. Use a regular card deck to play an addition card game

Card games are a great way to teach math concepts. And you don’t need a fancy card deck or complicated instructions to do it. Any plain ol’ deck of cards can be used to gamify your math lessons. 

Have each player take turns choosing two cards. If they add the cards’ values correctly, then they keep them. If they’re incorrect, they return the cards to the deck. The player that has the most cards at the end of the game, wins! 

Add more excitement to your game by having each player turn up their cards at the same time (this works best with 2 to 5 players). The player who calls out the largest sum first wins the cards. That’s some fast math!

3. Turn dominoes sideways to make addition equations

Dominoes can make any addition lesson more engaging. If you need a simple way to help your students practice math, provide them with a stack of dominoes, turn them sideways, and ask them to write out and solve the corresponding math equations. 

After the math work is done, add some fun by stacking all the correctly solved dominoes at the front of the room, or weaving them through the classroom. The more equations the class solves correctly, the more dominoes come crashing down. Boom!  

4. Play a class-wide game of around the world 

Around the world is a classic classroom game your competitive students will love. Invite students to sit in a circle, then ask for a volunteer to stand behind a student to compete. These two students race to answer an addition problem (flashcards are perfect for this). Whoever answers first moves to stand behind the next student in the circle. 

The winner is whoever travels the furthest around the circle. Can someone make it all the way around the world? Give it a try and find out! 

5. Toss around an addition beach ball

Get your students up and moving with this tossing game. Blow up a big beach ball and write numbers all over it, customizing it for your students’ math level.

Once your ball is prepped, start tossing! As each student catches the ball, ask them the numbers closest to their thumbs and for the sum of those numbers. If they get it right, they can toss the ball to a classmate. If they miss it, they toss the ball back to you and can try again later. 

6. Monkey in the middle

Ready to blow some young minds? Teach them this addition strategy, and then turn it into a game!

First, the “trick” — if you’re adding two numbers together that are separated by only one number (for example 6+8), you can find the “monkey in the middle” (in our example, 7) and double it to get the correct answer. This works every time. 642+644 is the same as 643 + 643. For some students, this strategy simplifies addition problems, helping them find the solution more quickly.

Next, try a game to help the idea stick. Assign each student in your class a number and place it on their desk. Then write a math sentence on the board that fits the pattern. If their number is on the board, invite them to the front of the class, then ask the class to find the monkey. This is a great time to let loose and get silly. Once the correct monkey is called out, ask the class to solve the problem.

Tried and true addition math activities

Young girls sits at a desk in her classroom and work on addition activities with a pencil and paper.

Don’t discount these classic methods for teaching your students math basics.

1. Create word problems using everyday classroom objects

Show your students how math works in the real world by demonstrating with everyday objects. Determine the number of pencils needed for a test —  count how many you have and determine if it’s enough for the whole class. Or try adding the star and rainbow stickers to make sure there are enough for to give out during the week. 

2. Use addition worksheets to reinforce classroom instruction 

Even if they’re not a favorite, worksheets have their place. Though some students consider them to be busywork, the repetition of worksheet problems can be invaluable for providing addition practice. 

3. Display number lines to help students visualize number sequences

Number lines help develop concrete number understanding. Being able to use a number line is a valuable skill your students can continue to use throughout their elementary years. 

Learning activities to enhance your math lessons

If you’re looking to keep your students excited about math, these activities are a great place to start. By combining hands-on learning, fun games and classic instruction, more of your students will grow to understand and enjoy math.

If you want a simple way to incorporate addition practice into your student’s day, try Prodigy Math! Created by real teachers for students in grades 1 to 8, Prodigy Math is a game-based platform that lets you send math practice to students as they play!

Pinterest-perfect activities and games are great, but even the simple ones can take up a lot of time and prep. It's easy to get started with Prodigy Math in just a few clicks, and soon your students will be able to join the fun.

The benefits keep adding up, so what are you waiting for? Explore Prodigy for your classroom today!

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