Addition and Subtraction within 20

This week I have been focusing on my kids' ability to calculate key addition and subtraction facts to 20. I should have realised sooner that their only strategy is to count on in ones but it has taken a global pandemic for me to realise lots of things I should have taught my children but haven’t (don’t get me started on housework!). So here are some of the short, playful, family-friendly activities we did last week to encourage calculating rather than counting.

We used two tens frames (2x5 grids) and put a toy in each rectangle. We filled them up so that Harry could see there were 10 in each frame. Then he closed his eyes as I took cars away. His task was to work out how many were left and how many were gone. The structure of the tens frames allowed Harry to work out how many were left by focusing on the relationships. This is his explanation of this photo:

There's 8 (because 4 and 4) and 4 (because 2 and 2) and that makes 12 because you can move 2 cars to make a full ten and then it's 12 because 12 is 10 add 2."


There are loads of card games to support mathematical thinking. This was a simple game where we each chose 2 cards and added them. The person with a total closest to 20 won. We added some strategic thinking by making a Jack, Queen, King or Joker have any value - so the children chose what they could be depending on the value of their second card.


I had been giving my kids £1 to spend at my sweet shop - this was to teach them about money and to stop them eating so much rubbish! This week, I stopped giving them £1 and made them 'earn their keep!' This encouraged addition practice and confidence with coin denominations all whilst doing some actual housework.


My kids don't like it when I try to do school work with them - but they love to play! So I use games as a compromise... In this game of Twister, we gave each colour a value. Left hand on green became 'left hand on 8 + 3' or 'right foot on 18 - 6' etc... My kids loved this! (We used this for English too with specific sounds and spellings on certain colours.)


We wrote numbers on lollipop sticks (and a phonics sound on the other side). This week, they chose a stick and found examples of their number from what we have in the house and then used that to make number posters. The idea here is that they are learning that the number is more than just the numeral. Numbers are used in lots of ways and this allows them to see that and to represent it in various ways. They understand the make-up of the number, not just the abstract symbol or how to reach it by counting in ones.


Anything with Lego is always a big hit! I wrote a question on one side and an answer on the other and they had to build their towers by finding the answer block. Children's colouring pens wipe off easily so I've been able to make a few different ones of these during the week. This was good for their different ages as I could make Isla's harder.

We are returning to tables facts and division this week so I'll be using many of the same ideas just with different questions...

No Worksheets,

No Computers,

Maths Through Play,

Maths is Fun!

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