Math Background

Modeling Addition: Overview

Addition is combining groups of items or increasing the number in an existing group. Although children already have informal experience with grouping and were introduced to the concept of addition in Kindergarten, they are now ready to learn the formal structures and rules of addition.

Modeling addition involves the use of manipulatives, such as counters, beans, and cubes, as well as pictures, to depict addition facts and to illustrate addition problems.

4 red crayons + 3 blue crayons = 7 crayons

When children manipulate actual objects to represent addition concepts, it helps them gain a concrete understanding of what addition is. Children need to have that understanding before they can begin to represent addition symbolically in number sentences and before they can memorize basic facts and perform mental calculations.

The strategy of modeling addition can be used to teach addition properties such as the Zero Property and the Commutative Property. The Zero Property states that the sum of any number and zero is the original number. The Commutative Property states that numbers may be added in any order.

4 red crayons + 3 blue crayons = 7 crayons3 blue crayons + 4 red crayons = 7 crayons

Once children have had experience joining groups of manipulatives, you can use drawings and other pictorial representations to model addition.

3 butterflies + 4 butterflies = 7 butterflies

Drawing sketches and viewing pictures help children make the transition to a more symbolic understanding of addition. These visual models make the connection between the actual items in groups and the numbers and operational symbols used to represent them in an addition sentence.

As children progress in math, they will continue to use manipulatives and pictures to model concepts such as addition and subtraction and the relationship between addition and subtraction.


Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 1