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Your Kids Aren’t Learning Addition Facts? Try This…

I have taken on teaching some third graders addition facts as an intervention.  When intervening with kids in any type of math, I never assume too much.  I start at the very bottom and work up.

Once I went to a  math professional development and the trainer was Melissa Conklin from Math Solutions.  She said one thing that has stuck with me.  Kids who are good at math see patterns.  If this is the case, then why don’t we present math in a way that kids can see patterns?  But usually when we teach addition facts, it begins like this.  Learn all your 1’s, then 2’s, then 3’s, then 4’s, then 5’s and so on.  Kids see the number facts usually presented in order.  There is no chance to think about the sums and why they turn out the way they do.  So, I challenge you to begin teaching your students their addition facts like this…

Have students look at patterns in their ones.  Don’t place them in order.  Go ahead and answer the problems so the conversation isn’t about finding the answers.


Now before I present something like this on the board, I leave it there and make the kids sit quietly to find any patterns they might see.  This shouldn’t take long, but you never know if kids aren’t seeing this simple fact.  Interestingly enough, usually the students with lower test scores on state tests do not see the patterns readily.  I must underline certain things after a while if I don’t get the feedback I am looking for.  For example, if students don’t see the ones pattern above, I underline the addend added to 1 and the sum…I would underline the 6 and 7, the 8 and 9, the 3 and 4, and so on.  Hopefully your students will say that when they add 1 that they are just counting up to the next number.  I follow up with flashcards of adding ones in my group of five or six students.

Next, move onward to 10’s because there is a similar pattern that you hope children will see.  Depending on your students, show them the 10’s pattern and let the kids observe for a few minutes, sit, and wait.  I have the kids put their thumb on their chest like they do in the Number Talks videos.  This lets me know they have found a pattern without them raising their hand distracting their neighbors who may still be thinking.  Remember, write the equations out of order and write the sums.


After writing these on the board, lower students will say that they see 10’s in all of them.  I ask for any other thoughts.  Then someone will say that they see the one in front of the number that is being added to the 10.  I ask for clarification and a student comes to the board to point a finger at the 1 in front of the sums.  I further still get clarification about the one asking if this is really a one or one group of……oh! ten!  Most have no difficulty after seeing the pattern.

Next, I bring out some of the hardest facts that students shudder at….dah…dah..dum(in suspense)–THE NINES!!! eeeeeek!  But if you know a pattern are the nines really that hard?  NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Slide1

When you place the numbers on the board write them like above where you pair the ten helping fact with the nine fact.  Then allow kids to discuss what patterns they see.  They will see a pattern that works for them.  Underline the sums of the 10’s and 9’s facts to help students recognize that the nine’s facts are one less than the 10’s facts.  Students will use this strategy and maybe others when you use flash cards to help them become fluent.

That is all I have gotten to for now…more addition strategies to come.

*Thank you Erin Cobb: Frames courtesy of Lovin’Lit.

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