Representing Addition and Subtraction

Brittany Zae

This lesson is designed to help students represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

Grade Level: K - 1st

Subject: Math

Length of Time: About 45 Minutes

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Common Core Alignment

CCSS: MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.1 - Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings1, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

Objectives & Outcomes

Students will be able to express addition and subtraction equations in multiple different ways, by adding and subtracting physical items through multiple activities, discussions, and observations.

Materials Needed


Opening to Lesson

  • Watch video to review animals (stop at certain points to identify terms and check for understanding)
  • Then, play ‘flash review’ where you quickly flash ocean animal cards and vocabulary cards and have students respond with what it is as you put them on the board.
  • Actively listen as students answer guided questions relating to the video as well as tell you the correct name of the picture shown.
  • Also try describing things and see if they can think of the correct term.

Body of Lesson

Direct Teaching:

Directing students to the sorted cards on the board, ask students to count the sea animals, the maps, the blue animals, etc. As you count five animals, write the equation in numbers below. Explain to the students that you don’t just have to write this equation; you can show with your fingers or blocks or even just say it, etc.

Guided Practice 1

Next, review addition and subtraction using the students. Ask them to stand up, as you have each student select a card, then ask a select amount sit down. “If you’re a dolphin, sit down… how many are left?” Write the equation on the board and repeat. (Reverse the activity and write an equation and see if the students can show it. i.e. 5-2=3, ask what animal is there five of? Then have those animals stand up and if they can show the equation with their body)

Guided Practice 2

Students will then be split into two teams to play charades. The game will consist of a bowl of equations where they will have to act out their equation using nonverbal cues. The teams will alternate until all the children have been chosen and the equations have been answered. (Provide additional opportunities for practices as needed, and observe)

Independent Practice

Students will sit back at their desks and complete their worksheet of three equations from the game: i.e. 1. Draw: 1+1 = 2 using dolphins. 2. Write three – two = one, using numbers… etc. (Use proximity to walk around the room, provide time for reflection and assessment, and review final written assignment)


Reference the completed KWL chart

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Assessment & Evaluation

Through guided questions, close monitoring and informal observation; the teacher will be able to assess student’s ability and understanding of the subject being introduced. Through class discussions as well as eliciting responses when finalizing the KWL chart, the teacher will be able to evaluate students.

Modification & Differentiation

When students are counting from the mystery bag, challenge higher-level students by asking them to count on their own, or even specifically how many blue animals they have, etc. Accommodate for lower level students by monitoring closely to provide extra assistance as needed. Allow struggling students to verbalize what their worksheet may say, or show you the equation using their hands.  A number of examples could also be shown on the board or given as a supplementary resource. Students could also be paired in groups in order to help student collaborate and understand the objectives better. could also be available for any students that finish early.

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