Math Background

Modeling and Recording Addition: Overview

Addition is combining groups of items or increasing the number in an existing group. By this point, children have already had various informal experiences with grouping. Now they are ready to begin exploring addition concepts more formally, initially through the use of manipulatives and later through pictures. Modeling addition involves using manipulatives, such as counters, beans, and cubes, as well as pictures, to represent combining groups or increasing a group.

Four red dots and three blue dots.

Children at this age are not ready to understand addition at the purely symbolic level. They need to work with actual objects so that they can form a concrete understanding of addition. At this point, children cannot be expected to memorize number facts and will rely on being able to count the objects in each group to find the sum. Once children have had many experiences joining groups of actual objects, you can use drawings and other pictorial representations to model addition.

group of four alligators and one alligator

Drawing sketches and viewing pictures helps prepare children for 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.

After children have had ample opportunity to model addition with a variety of materials, the plus sign and equals sign can be introduced but, again, only in the context of grouping real objects. The strategy of modeling addition can be used to teach a variety of addition concepts such as that of adding one to a number.

Four red dots and one blue dot.

You can use counters to model adding two to a number— 4 + 2 = 6.

Four red dots and two blue dots.

Counters can be used to model double facts— 4 + 4 = 8.

Four red dots and four blue dots.

As they progress in math, children 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 K