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What is the Easiest Way to Teach Addition?

Often times I get asked, “what is the easiest way to teach addition?” Unfortunately it’s not a super simple answer because all students will learn this skill differently depending on what kind of learner they are. However, I have always used a pretty hands-on approach with my students to teach basic addition. I think it is important when teaching this skill. I have created a simple list for you of 5 FUN activities to teach basic addition below. (Stay tuned until the end for a FREEBIE!)

what is the easiest way to teach addition?

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1. Dice Roll

This first activity to teach basic addition is simple yet fun. It’s also a good way to get kids up and moving. Gather your students around the carpet and grab 2 large foam dice These kind are my favorite. Let 2 students come up and take turns rolling each die. Together, show them how to count the dots on each separate die and then count them altogether. I usually lay out number cards on the rug or write the addition sentence on the board for students to see. It makes it fun for students to do this on the floor rather than at the table when introducing basic addition for some added fun.

2. Building Block Towers

Another fun and easy way to introduce basic addition is by letting students build block towers. I guarantee you probably already have unifix cubes in your classroom! That’s all you need! Write an addition sentence on the board such as 5 + 2 =. Give each student 2 different colored sets of unifix cubes before beginning this activity (I always liked to prepare these in baggies or Tupperware ahead of time to make sure I had enough for each student).

Then together, build each number in the problem using a different colored set of unifix cubes. Then put them together to find the sum. You can actually even buy sets that have activity cards to go with the unifix cubes. This is one of my favorite (and simplest) ways to teach basic addition using a hands-on method.

3. File Folders

File folders are one of the other simple activities to teach basic addition. You will have students in your classroom on all different levels when teaching addition. This is why having a file folder system to be able to differentiate this skill is nice. You especially want to make sure students have a concrete understanding of number recognition before moving on to addition. These Number Recognition and Counting File Folders are perfect for that.

Then, once students are ready for basic addition, try these Addition File Folders with them. (Spoiler alert- there are subtraction file folders in this pack as well.) Both sets practice addition and subtraction up to 10. If you have learners that are motivated by food like I typically did, these are great because they have a snack theme! They even include some errorless learning file folders! These Addition File Folders are really great for small group time or independent work stations.

4. Deck of Cards

Do you keep a deck of cards in your classroom like I always did? This is another simple activity for working on basic addition. First, take out the Jacks, Queens, Kings and Jokers. Then, lay the cards in 2 separate piles-both facedown. Have a student grab a card from each pile and use the numbers and pictures on the card to add them together. I love a good deck of cards because it even has the visual representation on it that our students need. This would be a great activity for a paraprofessional to lead in a small group!

Jumbo Cards – https://amzn.to/3XHIJwK

5. Create an Addition Apple Tree

My final idea for you for an activity to practice or teach basic addition is to create this cute little addition apple tree from CBC Parents.Click on the link to get step by step directions of how to create it with materials you would typically already have in your classroom. Hands-on ways to teach addition are my favorite!

create an addition apple tree to teach basic addition to 10


No matter what activities you use to teach basic addition to your students, my advice would be to let them have fun while doing it! The more engaging activities that you can provide, the more learning that will occur. I like to stay away from too many pencil to paper worksheets when we are learning math skills because otherwise my students would tend to get bored. Something else that I liked to do was incorporate this new skill into as much of our real day as possible:

  • Find opportunities to add the number of girls vs the number of boys in class
  • Give a snack such as goldfish crackers during the day and practice addition while eating
  • Add the number of people wearing pants vs shorts (or whatever you can make work for the season)
free activities to teach basic addition

Which activity will you use to help teach basic addition to your students?

5 FUN Activities to Teach Basic Addition
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