How to Teach Addition & Subtraction to Preschoolers

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Preschoolers can learn a lot about addition and subtraction from their daily lives. Young children generally enjoy counting and once they have mastered basic numbers from one to 20, they have the tools to do simple addition and subtraction. Activities such as cooking can lead to a discussion of how many eggs are left in the tray after you use two to bake a cake. Games, nursery rhymes and simple worksheets all gently reinforce the learning.

1 Use real

Use real, tangible items to demonstrate addition and subtraction. Examples of everyday things include checkers, Lego blocks, clothes and toys. Turn it into a game. For instance, start with 10 building blocks. Get the child to close his eyes and take three away. The child has to work out how many you have taken and how many are left. Reverse and do the same for addition.

2 Introduce the concept of addition and subtraction

Introduce the concept of addition and subtraction during everyday events such as shopping and eating. For instance, you could include the child when dividing up cherries. The child can count 20 cherries at the beginning and then subtract five for mom's bowl to leave 15 and so on.

3 Expose the preschooler

Expose the preschooler to games and rhymes relevant to addition and subtraction. For example, the rhyme "There were 10 in the bed and the little one said, 'Roll over, roll over.' So they all rolled over and one fell out. There were nine in the bed and the little one said..." and so on. Another similar rhyme is "10 green bottles," which is popular in the UK. It begins, "10 green bottles standing on the wall, 10 green bottles standing on the wall. If one green bottle should accidentally fall, there'll be nine green bottles standing on the wall..." and so on.

Role-play situations such as shopping to practice simple subtraction. The child is the shopkeeper and you are the shopper, buying three apples that cost $1 each. If you give the child 20 $1 bills, he then has to work out the sum and give you the correct change.

Experiment with interactive online math games to practice simple addition and subtraction. For example, fun games include watching numbers fall from the sky. The child must identify two numbers that add up to 10 in order to destroy the numbers before they hit the ground and explode.

  • Do not force the preschooler to spend hours on worksheets and formal counting. The trick is to introduce some fun to any simple math task.
  • Exploit the potential of traveling to practice adding and subtracting. The child can count the number of red cars he sees and then add or take away the number of green cars he sees.

Based on the south coast of the U.K., Sally Nash has been writing since 1988. Her articles have appeared in everything from "Hairdressers Journal" to "Optician." She has also been published in national newspapers such as the "Financial Times." Nash holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University.