Maths – Simple addition and subtraction

All of my blog posts so far have been about phonics. This is mainly because there are not many parent friendly phonics sites around and it is the one question I get asked a lot from friends. However I know that Maths is an area that some children can find hard to understand and sometimes it is hard to think of different ways of explaining the same concept. As always I believe that children learn best through play, they also need to see things visually in order to turn an abstract concept into a concrete one.

I found the following game online as one to support children with their fine motor skills, I thought it would be a good one to keep the girls occupied while I got on with a couple of jobs. However it soon became clear we could get lots of maths out of it and I couldn’t help getting involved with the fun.

You will need: a lump of play dough, some long spaghetti, hoola hoops or cheerios

To start place the play dough on the table and then insert the spaghetti into it so it is standing vertically. You can have 2 or 3 columns depending on the game you are playing.

Game 1: Simple counting. Thread the hoops onto the spaghetti sticks and count as you go. Encourage the children to say each number as they place on the stick. Then when the stick is full count again to check how many are on the stick. Megan loved doing this and even though she can’t count correctly yet it was good for her to practise saying the number names in order and it helps to reinforce that number 1 is 1 hoop even if she is too young to understand the concept yet.

Game 2: More or Less. Have two sticks of spaghetti, let the children thread the hoops as they wish. When they are done look at the two sticks. Which one has more? Which one has less? How do you know? Can you count to check? Give your child a number e.g. 4 can they thread that number onto the first stick? Can they make the second stick one more/ one less? What is one more/less than 4? Isabel enjoyed this as she initially found it hard to say one less than a number but eating a hoop every time she made it one less certainly helped her to understand.

Game 3: Taller/Shorter. Have three sticks of spaghetti, children thread hoops but they need to be different sizes. Which one is taller? Which is shorter? How do you know? Can you put them in order from tallest to shortest? Working out which one goes in the middle means you have to really know the number system and which order the numbers are in.

Game 4: Addition/Subtraction. Have two sticks of spaghetti and a set of number cards from 1-10 or 1-20. Pick a number and place in front of the first spaghetti stick e.g. 5. Thread that number of hoops. Pick another number and put in front of the second stick e.g. 3. (Make sure these are numbers that your child is comfortable working with as we are reinforcing the concept of addition not working with new numbers.) Then ask them what is 5+3? Add the smallest number of hoops to the biggest number so they are now all on one stick. How many altogether? Count together. If you are doing subtraction have just one stick. Pick a number e.g. 10 and thread that number of hoops onto the stick. Then pick another number (make sure it is smaller than the first) e.g. 4. Take 4 hoops away from the original 10. How many are left? So 10 take away 4 = 6. Then eat the 4 you have taken away!! This helps to reinforce that once they have been taken away they are gone.

I have been thinking that these sticks would also be really useful as a visual aid for children learning the concept of tens and units and then later hundreds, tens and units. Simply place two sticks of spaghetti down for tens and units or three if using hundreds. Then write a number down e.g. 15. Look at the number it has 1 ten and 5 units, place 1 hoop on the first stick and 5 hoops on the second stick. Do this a few times until your child is confident, then let them think of a number. Write it down in secret and hide it. Make up the number in tens and units with the hoops then ask mum or dad if they can say the number. Once mum or dad has guessed the number then your child can reveal if they are correct.


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