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Adding & Subtracting Whole Numbers

Context for this Lesson


TOPIC: Adding and Subtracting Whole Numbers

GRADE LEVEL: Kindergarten 

FOCUS QUESTION: How do we add and subtract (combine and separate) whole numbers from 1-10?



§111.2. Mathematics, Kindergarten

(b) Knowledge and Skills

  • (3) Number and operations. The student applies mathematical process standards to develop an understanding of addition and subtraction situations in order to solve problems. The student is expected to:
    • (A) model the action of joining to represent addition and the action of separating to represent subtraction;
    • (B) solve word problems using objects and drawings to find sums up to 10 and differences within 10; and
    • (C) explain the strategies used to solve problems involving adding and subtracting within 10 using spoken words, concrete and pictorial models, and number sentences.

Common Core State Standards:

Mathematics Kindergarten

  • Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understanding subtraction as taking apart and taking from.
    • (1) Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.
    • (2) Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.
    • (3) Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).
    • (4) For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation. 

MATERIALS: Sentence strips with equations on them (prepared)


Sound and Motion

Players stand in a circle. One player volunteers to go into the middle and begins to do a simple movement and make a sound. (For example, the player may stomp and say “bump, bump, bump” etc.) This sound and movement must be repeated several times until all players are imitating the volunteer. The volunteer continues doing this sound and movement while moving out of the center of the circle and replacing another player who moves to the center. The new player and group continue the original sound and movement until the new player reaches the center and changes it. All players now start doing the new sound and movement simultaneously, etc.


Data Processing

Choose an area(s) where students have enough room to create a single file line(s). Explain that you have “a challenge for the group.” Explain that they must see how quickly the entire class can line up from shortest to tallest without making a single sound. Let them know that if there is a sound that we will stop and try it again. When students have completed the task, see how quickly they can form a perfect standing circle with students lined up alphabetically by last name from A to Z without making a sound.

Discuss: “Was this easy? Hard? Why? How did you find ways to communicate with each other? Which line up was easier? Why?”

Explore: Arrange the students in a group on the floor to set up the Teacher-in-Role moment. In just a moment, I am going to step into role as a famous author, or someone who writes book, and I am going to need all of your help with a book that I’m working on now. When I turn around and put on these glasses, I will become Miss Tina Rose, famous writer.

Hi everyone! Wow, I am so excited to be here with you all today! I have heard that you all are experts on numbers, is that right? You are? Great. Well, I have this problem that I am hoping you can help me with. You see, I am in love with numbers. In fact, I love them so much, I am writing a book about them! Yes! I am writing about every single thing that I know about numbers but I’m really having trouble with one of my chapters, and that’s the chapter about the number five. I mean, I know a lot about the number five, of course, but I can’t seem to visualize or recognize groups of five when you see them. And my editor is coming today to see what I’ve come up with for some pictures for this book, and I really need your help making them. The editor, my boss, is coming in very soon to see what I’ve done, but I’m having some trouble with one of the chapters. The number is five, and I know a whole lot about it but I’m really having some trouble figuring out what that looks like. My editor has told me that I need to create some images of what groups of five look like. I’ve heard that you all are experts on numbers, right? Great.. So I guess maybe the first thing I need to see is what a group of five people looks like. How can we get a group of five? Great, let’s count! Five volunteers: one, two, three, four, five. So she’s given me these numbers, written on these papers, and she wants me to figure out what these pictures might look like. Do you think you can help me? Great. [put up piece of paper with 1+4.] What does that mean? Ok, so if we were to make that as a picture, with your bodies in space, what might that look like. Oh, ok, one person here, and four there. Awesome. Here’s the next one. 2+3. What might that look like? 3+2 Hey, doesn’t that look kind of like the one before it? Is it the same? How is it different? Is it still the same total number of people?Still five, huh? Crazy! Ok, last one. 4+1 Hey, that’s kind of like the first one! I’m getting the hang of this! So this one is four bodies and one body… wow, you guys are great! I think this is going to be great, friends. Do you think we can show here these frozen pictures when she gets here? Ok, uh-oh, I think I hear her coming.

(Ruthie enters, in role as Ms. Editorlady She is wanting to see the pictures that I have come up with to accompany my chapter on the number five. Unfortunately, she doesn’t think that they are interesting enough for her book. People want to see more interesting pictures these days, they want to see number sentences. So she has decided to make all the illustration pages have pictures of animals instead of just people standing still.)

Ruthie: Ok, everyone, now I’m going to give you all some different combinations of animals, and I’d like you, in the same groups we just worked in, to create a frozen image of this group. Ready? Ok, first one. 1 elephant and 4 lions 2 bears and 3 tigers 3 dogs and 2 kittens 4 monkeys and 1 elephant.

Ruthie: You know what, Miss Tina Rose, that was really great. It’s so great, that I think I need to add more pictures like this for the rest of the chapters in the book. Do you think that we could come up with some number sentences for the number six? Like a caption to go underneath the pictures of these fabulous number experts? Great Break into 2 groups for number six ( or just one if not time) and create images for the following. 2 +4, 3+3, 4+2, 5+1, 1+5 (write on top half of paper) (write sentences below) i.e. ‘There were two cats and four dogs at the pet store.’ Bring the two groups back together to share.


Describe: What did we do today? What did we see today?

Analyze: What did we learn about the number five?

Relate: What are some times that you might need to count things, or know how much of something you have?