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Counting to Add and Subtract

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

An easy way to relate counting to addition and subtraction.

Counting is a foundational math skill used at all levels.

Many adults still count to round up the cost of gas or to check the difference in sales prices between items at the grocery store.

This lesson will help your learner practice basic addition and subtraction problems but it can also be used as they begin tackling more complex problems.

Watch the video below to see how you can introduce counting on and back to the children in your life!

Terms to know...

Addend(s): numbers that are being combined in an addition sentence. This is also called parts.

3 + 7 = 10

Sum: the answer in an addition sentence. This is also called the whole number

3 + 7 = 10

Minuend: the first number in a subtraction sentence.

10 - 7 = 3

Subtrahend: the number that is being taken away from the minuend.

10 - 7 = 3

Difference: the answer in a subtraction sentence

10 - 7 = 3

(kinder and first grade students are only expected to know addend, sum, and difference as vocabulary words)

Skill Level

Level 1


  • whiteboards or index cards

  • markers

  • flashcards


  1. Say "I'm going to show you a (addition or subtraction) sentence and we are going to use counting to solve it".

  2. Show the child the problem and read it to them.

  3. Say "I want you to write the larger number down". When they write the number tell them what it is called, for example, if you are solving an addition problem say "Great job! That is the bigger addend"

  4. Say "What is the smaller number?" When they identify the smaller addend or subtrahend ask them to draw that amount of spaces next to their firs number.

  5. Say "Okay now we are going to point at our larger number and say it, then we are going to count (up for addition or down for subtraction) to find our answer. While we count we are going to point on the blank spaces you drew. We will stop counting when we get to the last space that you drew". Make sure the learner understands the expectations and count with them.

  6. Say "What was the last number we landed on? Great that is our answer!"

  7. Practice this with your learner often and as they improve allow them opportunities to solve problems by themselves.

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