Why Addition Strategies?
When I taught elementary school, my students’ parents sometimes wondered why I was teaching their children addition strategies. “Why not just memorize the facts?” they would ask as they crouched in the child-size chairs at conferences.
Here’s what I would tell them:
- Learning strategies makes the addition facts less overwhelming. Instead of memorizing every addition fact individually, all it takes is 6 simple strategies.
- Focusing on strategies is more efficient. Children learn the facts much more quickly–and remember them much better–when they use strategies to find the answers.
- Children develop confidence in their math skills as they realize that math is for understanding, not just memorizing.
Think of addition strategies as stepping-stones. Stepping stones aren’t there for you to stay teetering on; they are there to help get you across the stream.
Math fact strategies serve the same purpose as stepping stones. They are there to help kids get to their ultimate destination: mastering all of the addition facts!
Below, you’ll find a brief explanation of the most important addition strategies. But if you’d prefer to watch a video in which I explain all 6, just scroll to the video at the bottom.
The 6 Most Useful Addition Strategies
With just these 6 strategies, your child can master all of the addition facts from 1 + 1 up to 9 + 9. To teach them, all you’ll need are some counters and a simple printable called a ten-frame that helps kids visualize numbers and apply the strategies.
Strategy 1: Adding 1 and 2
Use for: all of the +1 and +2 addition facts
To add 1 or 2, teach your children simply to count forward 1 or 2 from the larger number.
Example: 6+2. Count forward 2 from 6: “6, 7, 8.”
Strategy 2: Pairs That Make 10
Use for: sums that equal 10 (5 + 5, 6 + 4, 7 + 3, etc.)
Use counters on a ten-frame to help your child visualize these sums. Represent the larger addend on the ten-frame and ask your child to figure out how many boxes are empty.
Example: 6 plus what equals 10? When 6 boxes are full, 4 are empty. So, 6 + 4 equals 10.
Strategy 3: Use 5 as a Benchmark
Use for: all remaining sums less than 10
Use the dividing line in the middle of the ten-frame as a reference point and add in 2 steps.
Example: 4+ 3. First add 1 to the 4 to make a 5. Then add the remaining 2.
Strategy 4: Adding 9
Use for: all +9 facts
Use two ten-frames to model the problems. Move one counter from the bottom ten-frame to the top ten-frame to make a complete group of 10. Then, use place-value knowledge to “see” the answer.
Example: 9 + 4. Move one counter from the bottom ten-frame to the top ten-frame. Now, it’s easy to see that 9 + 4 is the same as 10 + 3, or 13.
Strategy 5: Adding 8
Use for: all +8 facts
This strategy is very similar to the Adding 9 strategy. Again, use two ten-frames to model the problems. This time, move two counters from the bottom ten-frame to the top ten-frame to make a complete group of 10. Then, use place-value knowledge to “see” the answer.
Example: 8 + 5. Move two counters from the bottom ten-frame to the top ten-frame. Now, it’s easy to see that 8 + 5 is the same as 10 + 3, or 13.
Strategy 6: Look at the Leftovers
Use for: all remaining sums greater than 10
Place counters on the ten-frame to represent the problem. Look for two groups of 5 and combine them to make a 10. Then, add on the “leftover” counters.
Example: 7 + 5. The 2 groups of 5 make a 10. Then, add on the 2 “leftovers” to see that the answer is 12.
All 6 Strategies Explained
Want to learn more about the strategy-approach to teaching the addition facts? Learn more in this video.
Want help teaching your child these addition strategies?
Check out my book, Addition Facts That Stick. It makes teaching the addition facts easy and fun, with step-by-step lessons, games, and worksheets to help your child master the addition facts.