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The Best Addition and Subtraction Strategies for Kindergarten

Learning how to add and subtract is an exciting, yet challenging, math milestone for young learners!  Teaching students a variety of addition and subtraction strategies will help them strengthen their number sense as they learn how to add and subtract.  In this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite math strategies to teach young learners, and how I introduce them using Math Strategies Posters

Addition and Subtraction Strategies

Benefits of Teaching Addition and Subtraction Strategies

Taking the time to introduce your students to different math strategies will greatly benefit your students as they learn how to add and subtract. Here are just a few of the perks of teaching a wide range of strategies in your classroom:

Move from Concrete to Abstract – Math strategies come in many different varieties, with some being much more concrete than others.  This can create a natural progression for your students as they learn about addition and subtraction in concrete terms at first.  As their math skills develop, they can move on to learning more abstract addition and subtraction strategies.

Differentiate Instruction – When you teach addition and subtraction with various strategies, your students will be more likely to find one that makes the most sense to them.

A variety of task cards with different

Prepare for Word Problems – Learning a variety of strategies will help students prepare for word problems and more challenging math tasks.  They will be able to look at problems in different ways in order to come up with a solution.

Increase Independence – When students have learned plenty of math strategies, it will be easier for them to complete their work independently.  This is especially helpful in the kindergarten classroom when students are often working in small groups or independently during morning work time or math center rotations.

10 Addition and Subtraction Strategies for Kindergarten

Here are some of the best math strategies to support young learners throughout the school year as they develop their addition and subtraction skills.

1. Manipulatives and Counters

One of my favorite ways to introduce addition and subtraction strategies to students is to use manipulatives.  There are many different types of counters, cubes, and even small game pieces that can help students visualize addition and subtraction.

2. Fingers

Ask any kindergartner how old they are, and they’re likely to show you the number on their fingers as part of their response!  Most students are familiar with finger counting strategies when they enter kindergarten. You can build on this knowledge to help students understand addition and subtraction.

3. Counting On and Counting Back

A helpful strategy to teach young students how to count on for addition and count back for subtraction. Be sure to show them how they can start with the bigger number!

4. Number Line

Students will use number lines for years to come, so it’s a great strategy to teach in kindergarten.  Students can start on the given number and then either hop forward or backward for addition or subtraction.

A white desk top contains four sets of subtraction task cards, a bin of math manipulatives, a container of markers, and a subtraction recording sheet.

5. Ten Frame

Ten frames are a helpful way to visualize number combinations.  They can be used for both addition and subtraction! Since ten frames are used for other important math concepts, like learning about teen numbers, it’s a good idea for students to become familiar with them.

6. Rekenrek

Students can use a rekenrek to explore addition and subtraction. This bead rack with groups of five and ten colored beads can also help students see patterns and relationships between numbers.

7. Drawing

A very useful strategy for young learners is to teach them how to represent addition and subtraction with drawings. Students will almost always have access to paper and pencil when working on math in the classroom. Teach them how to create simple drawings, dots, or tally marks to help them add and subtract.

8. Number Bond

Creating number bonds can help students understand that both addition and subtraction are working with parts and a whole. They can also start to see patterns between numbers, which will help them later on when they start to practice concepts like addition facts and fact families.

9. Write an Equation

Once students have learned how to model addition and subtraction in different ways, they can start to identify and write their own equations. For example, after listening to a word problem, students can use their knowledge of addition and subtraction to write and solve an equation. 

10. Use Mental Math

Ultimately, all of the helpful math strategies above will help students become more confident with basic addition and subtraction. At this point, your kindergartners will be able to start learning mental math strategies that they will use throughout their lives.

How to Introduce Addition and Subtraction Strategies 

With so many addition and subtraction strategies to choose from, it can be hard to know which one to introduce first!  I suggest starting with strategies that provide a concrete representation of addition and subtraction. Depending on the needs of your class, this could be something like snap cubes or counters. 

A colorful kindergarten bulletin board with nine different illustrated math strategy cards.

As each math strategy is introduced, you can put it on display in your classroom.  After you have introduced several strategies for adding and subtracting, you will have created an anchor chart that your students can use all year! 

It’s also a good idea to communicate with families about the different math strategies that you have been practicing in the classroom. That way, if you choose to send home math homework, parents can help their kindergartner practice the same strategies.

Math Strategy Posters

I have created a set of math strategy posters to make it quick and easy to create subtraction and addition strategies anchor charts as you teach your students these math concepts. This resource comes in both black and white as well as color options, depending on your preference.  I have also included instructions that will help you print this resource in different sizes.  This is especially helpful if you want to create a reference sheet to send home with your students!

Just click below to take a closer look at everything included in this set of addition and subtraction strategy posters.

Save These Math Strategies for Kindergarten

If you’d like to quickly find these kindergarten math strategies, be sure to save this post for later!  Just add the pin below to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest.

Addition and subtraction strategies for kindergarten