Preschool – Introducing Addition and Subtraction

Since we started home schooling I have made and objective list of what I would like to teach my daughter this ‘year’ to keep me focused. I have never really written down my education philosophies, but I enjoy Charlotte Mason and Classical styles of teaching and learning. I think children need the disciple to sit and study at some point (like 7- 8…?) but that learning should be enjoyable. I understand the idea of precept upon precept, but like to begin educational topics with the understanding of the whole and then putting the pieces together to make it work.

Not all of my children will learn the way I do, but I am super blessed that I have a daughter who not only learns quickly, but she learns best the way I teach. Regardless of her ability to just memorize facts, I thought I would make the introduction to addition and subtraction fun and simple.

I began by having her gather rocks:


Next I drew a number line, first without the numbers, and had her put a rock on each tally.


I then had her start at the left, and count the rocks, one at a time, taking a step with each number. While she was walking through the number line, I wrote each number down as she counted.


This is the finished number line. After counting the 10 rocks, I had her take one away and count how many were left. We repeated this until she got down to 5. (10-1, 9-1, 8-1, etc.).

When we were down to 5, I taught her to add rocks, 1 and 2 at a time.

We played a bit with adding and subtracting and she was the one who moved the rocks and did the counting, I just picked how many we added or took away.

The last problem of the day was when I had her take 4 away from 10. She got the answer, 6, all by herself!

She does not have her tables memorized, but has learned HOW to get the answers to addition and subtraction. She learned that when we add, we count up, going right and when we subtract we take away from the larger number and count down to the left. (when we did 10-6 she took away the rock on 10, then 9, then 8… until she was left with 6.)

My only goal for the day was to introduce her to the concept of the number line for sequencing, and teaching the vocab of “plus” and “take away.” I did not expect her to understand as much as she did in so little time. I quit well before she began to lose attention to avoid any feelings of pressure.

We did the rest of our school for the day outside and she practiced writing her vowels while we sounded them and drawing shapes and just having fun with chalk. School has benefited my almost two year old as well! I don’t sit him down, but he picks things up anyway as I show him randomly. He knows a few shapes, numbers, colors and letters. Not a ton in any one category, but he seems to learn best just a little at at time. He has not been quite as much as an eager learner as his older sister, but seeing her WANT to sit and learn and listen, and ENJOY such has helped him begin to think learning isn’t so bad after all ;)


6 thoughts on “Preschool – Introducing Addition and Subtraction

  1. Pingback: Summer Blog Party ~ Week Six | Atlantamomofthree

    • Thanks, it was the most natural way I could think of introducing it. I haven’t seen any other resources suggest this, and it may not work for every child, but it can’t possibly be original ;) I’m new to this preschool world and some subjects that we will have in the next few years seem daunting!

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