Monday, March 14, 2011

Mathematics and Preschoolers III

Adding and Subtracting Sets

When working with preschoolers, our addition and subtraction activities are going to look different than what a 1st grader does.  It looks similar to what Kindergarten students do, except we do a lot more with manipulatives where most of Aaron and Caleb's work was/is out of a workbook and using pictures.  Very seldom do they pull out the manipulatives unless a child is having difficulty with the it's important that those of us that have children going to public school...let's get them well-versed in manipulating sets before Kindergarten!

The easiest way to introduce adding and subtracting is through fingerplays/songs.  Here are some examples.

The Bee Hive
Here is a bee hive.  Where are the bees?
Hidden away, so nobody sees.
Here they come buzzing, out of the hive!

5 Tall Giraffes
Lyrics by Colleen and Uncle Squaty Songcard-A-Props @2008
(Tune: Oh, My Darling Clementine)
1 giraffe, with his long neck, stretched to touch the sky so blue.
Call another giraffe to join him, all together there were 2.
2 giraffes with their long tongues, plucked the leaves from the thorny tree.
Called another giraffe to join them, all together there were 3.
3 giraffes spread their long legs, to drink the water along the shore.
Called another giraffe to join them, all together there were 4.
4 giraffes, long eyelashes, to keep the sand out of their eyes.
Called another giraffe to join them, all together there were 5.
All giraffes have long eyelashes, Long legs and necks and tongues.
So we’ve learned through the song we’re singing, many parts on giraffes are long!

One Elephant Went Out One Day
One elephant went out one day,
Upon a spider's web one day.

He had such enormous fun.
He called for another elephant to come.


These are familiar songs that my students love to dramatize!  I won't add the lyrics, I'm sure you know them!
*  5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
*  5 Green and Speckled Frogs
*  5 Little Ducks When Out to Play

Hands-on is the way to go with addition and subtraction.  Young students need to be able to touch and move the manipulatives around so they can understand exactly what it happening.  It helps it be a bit more meaningful vs. abstract.

A favorite with my kiddos was our Addition Mat.  I found something similar in one of the many catalogs that comes through our house and thought…”I can do that.”  So I went searching for it so I could take a picture for you all, and do you think I can find it?  Nope.  Hmmm.  Will have to be on the look out for it.  I went looking for the site that had the addition mat for purchase and lo and behold I found someone who has a free printable called "Add It!" that was very similar to ours.  It's a ways down the page under "Math Skills".  She also has a "Subtract It!" printable.  With hers, she has flashcards you can print off and laminate.  I made mine so I could use the flashcards  I already had.  When I find it I'll be sure to put a picture out here for you.
Photo is from

Here is a picture of one I made years ago.  Again, laminating it makes it more durable and allows you to use dry erase markers if you wish.  I like the newer "add it" mat better.  :-)
You can easily make addition activities theme related.  Here is a picture from Dr. Jean’s site.
You could do as she has shown with the addition. However, one activity I like to do is let them explore with sets.  The way I’ve done this type of activity is to put the number on the stem (if you laminate them you can use dry erase marker and reuse over and over) and give them a set of pumpkin seeds to correspond with that number.  1 set per pumpkin.  Then they create their own addition problems.  For younger students I’ve created squares for them to give them a visual of where their 2 sets are needing to go.  Then we use dry erase markers to write the numbers under each set.  So for the number Dr. Jean used, 7, we’d have 0+7, 1+6, 2+5, 3+4 (and with older students you may wish to go back with the reverse of these facts, 4+3, 5+2 and etc).  Themes:  you could do bears with bow ties and the number in the bow tie.  Or snowmen with hats with the number in the hats.  Use your imagination.
Dominoes are always fun for kids.  They love to build walls with them.  So often I’ll have a little task for them to do before they start playing with the dominoes.  They choose five dominoes and create addition problems with them.  Tactile numbers or other manipulatives work well here.  They count the dots on one side of a domino and find the number, then we add a plus sign, then they count the dots on the other side of the domino and they find the number.  We add the equal sign and they count them all together.

Index cards come in handy for addition facts.  Here is an activity we did with links.  For my preschoolers I like to color code.  It adds a bit of color reinforcement and also gives them a visual for a set. 

Don’t forget your toys!  We have a set of Counting Cookies, a product made by Learning Resources.  You can find them on, at Target, Wal-Mart and so on.  You can do simple addition right in the middle of their play.  Unifix or linking cubes work very nicely for showing children that addition is putting two sets together. also has free addition strips that you can print.  Here are a set that goes along with St. Patrick's Day.  Add a little fine motor and use clothespins to mark the answer.  These are a nice transition into using pictures for adding.  The pictures are still large enough that they can place a bean or chip on them if the child still needs that hands-on component.  Also, I like that they are individual strips. Keeps the children from getting distracted by the busyness of a typical workbook page.

Young children need to physically take an object away to begin to understand what subtraction is about.  As with addition, though we focus on  “manipulating manipulatives” :-) you do want to make times that you are showing them the subtraction problem.  So put the tactile numbers or number stamps to use or let them practice their numeral formation. 
Craft Sticks:  Here is something we almost all have in our cupboards if we have kids.  Like with addition activities, index cards can be your friend, or you can use flashcards.  
Wooden beads on a dowel or lace or abacus.

Dominoes work well also, except make sure you choose ones that have a large and small number and be sure to have them start with the large number (more/less).  Add interest by putting them in an adult sock.  They love the “mystery” of it.
Use your flashcards but remember to add some manipulatives.  Mini erasers work nicely!  I purchased a 500 Mini Eraser Assortment for $9.99 through Oriental Trading. 
Snack time is a perfect time to experience simple subtraction.  Start with 10 crackers, eat 2.  How many are left now?  Let them decide how many they are going to eat next.  Yum!
Number line…you can show subtraction and addition very well on a number line.  During February, blog titled Calendar, we had a valentine monkey jumping from number to number.  So the flash card said 3+4.  Children moved the monkey to the number 3 and jumped him 4 more times and then told me the number it landed on was 7.  For subtraction, you can use the flashcards also.  Start the object on the highest number and jump backwards.  You can create a large “number line” on the floor with number mats or outside with sidewalk chalk.  Children start at a number and jump forward (adding) or backwards (subtracting).  It’s all about exploring!


No comments:

Post a Comment