Learning to add is an important building block of the math curriculum in the early years. Addition is a foundational skill that leads to success in all the math subjects that follow.
How can a student learn to add in a way that teaches them to understand the why and how behind the process? Here are five keys to learning addition for young students:
1. Putting things together in like sets:
Addition concepts start to form long before children learn to add in school. When they begin to group things together into like sets, children are beginning to develop the basic idea of addition. A set is a physical representation of a number, and young children learn to group similar items into sets, counting up to the number of that set.
2. Strategies of counting on, counting back, and one more:
Early number skills provide a foundation for learning addition. Students must be fluent in counting before they are ready to learn to add. When a student has learned to count on (forward), count back, and put one more with a group, the student has progressed far beyond simply memorizing a string of numbers in order (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and is ready to learn to add.
3. Direct modeling of the process of addition:
Many educational researchers have shown that teaching students by directly modeling the math with physical objects leads to greater understanding. Brick Math uses LEGO® bricks to model the math. It’s the perfect tool because of the visual and tactile nature of the bricks. Each stud counts as 1, so students can see and feel the numbers they build.
4. Vocabulary of math:
It’s important for students to learn the right words to describe the math they are learning. When they know what the words addend, sum, result, solution, and altogether mean, they can talk about addition. Teachers and parents should be careful to use the term addition symbol rather than plus sign when discussing what is happening in an addition problem. “Plussing” is not a word, and the word plus only represents the symbol of the math, not the action. Every chapter in Brick Math starts with a list of the key vocabulary students will learn in those lessons.
5. Addition within the context of 10:
Early on, students need to understand that the number system is based on tens. LEGO® bricks can be used to model addition against a physical background of 10 studs. This is a great way to start representing the number system of ones, tens, and eventually, hundreds. The illustration here shows how to model 14 + 5 = 19 with LEGO® bricks while introducing the idea of groups of ten.
Addition is the stepping-stone to all other math, so it’s critical that kids understand it fully. It leads directly into subtraction as the opposite process to addition. In second or third grade, a firm understanding of the process of repeated addition leads to comprehension of multiplication.
Brick Math’s Addition Using LEGO® Bricks is a great way to teach young learners about addition. It starts with teaching the concept of addition and progresses through place value and adding larger numbers. The use of LEGO® bricks to model the math makes it fun to learn, too!
Brick Math is a K-6 math curriculum that uses LEGO® bricks to model 11 different math subjects:
Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Basic Fractions, Basic Measurement, Fraction Multiplication, Fraction Division, Advanced Measurement and Geometry, and Decimals. It works well for homeschooling, math intervention, enrichment, and as a whole-school program. Materials are simple and are not shared between students. It adapts easily to online instruction.
If you teach math or have a student at home who is learning math, check brickmath.com. The website includes videos for both teacher training and direct instruction of students. You can learn more about how Brick Math improves student math test scores and hear what people who are using Brick Math have to say about the program.