Addition and Subtraction Facts Made Fun

Okay, so your child is currently struggling with basic addition and subtraction math facts. The teacher has suggested flash cards or additional worksheets for your child, BUUUUUTTTT your child HATES these activities! Having a couple of kids myself in which assisting with homework has NOT been conducive to relationship building in any way whatsoever, I can so relate to the sick feeling a parent may get when a suggestion is made in which we know our child will shudder at.

So let’s look at other ways that may work for your child that can achieve the same result that flash cards would (but better because we can take the fighting with our kids out of it!)

dice for addition and subtractionjelly beans for addition and subtraction




Using Games to Work on Addition and Subtraction

Do you like to play games with your child? You can play a game together in which you have 2 colors of dice. Prior to starting, decide on which color of die’s number will be said first when stating the addition fact. If playing the game using subtraction, then the higher number will automatically go first and color won’t matter. You both roll the dice when it is your turn and say the question and answer as quickly as you can. For example, if a 2 and a 3 are rolled, you will say, “2 + 3 = 5.” If your child needs manipulatives, jelly beans (or whatever favorite incentive your child may have) can be counted to determine the answer.

Want to make the above game even more fun? Start with playing the jelly bean game as an addition game… one in which you play 5 or 6 rounds and keep the jelly beans in front of you that you have added. So, if you rolled a 5 and a 6 one round, you will say, “5 + 6 = 11” and keep 11 jelly beans in front of you. If your child needs to count them out with having 5 jelly beans, then adding 6 jelly beans to make it visual, that is totally fine! S/he can help you out when it is your turn for the extra practice as well.

Then, after a predetermined number of rounds, switch to it being a subtraction game for 10 or so rounds, now with each player using jelly beans from the pile that was accumulated in front of him/her. If a 6 and a 2 are rolled, you will say, “6 – 2 = 4” and remove 4 jelly beans from your pile and return them to the bag. At the end of the game, the player with the most jelly beans left in front of him/her will win. Of course, it is kind of a win for all players since the players now get to eat the jelly beans they are left with. 😉

using dominos to teach addition and subtraction

Do you like playing Dominos? If so, each you and your child can play a round in which the numbers will need to be added to each other as you play. I like using Dominos for this because of the dots on them that can be used for counting if needed.  In the picture above, the last addition math fact would be “4 + 4 = 8.”

Card Games for Learning Addition and Subtraction

My kids and I love to play cards. There are so many card games that can help with math facts, such as cribbage. However, if just starting to play cards or cribbage is not your thing, you can play “War” in which the deck is divided evenly and then each of you flip a card at the same time. The player who adds or subtracts the cards the quickest will win that hand. If working on addition or subtraction facts, taking the jacks, queens and kings out can be helpful. Other cards can be taken out if not working on those numbers yet as well. It is important to have a deck of cards that can be used for counting and not just with numbers on them, such as the ones shown below.

playing cards for learning addition and subtraction

Another game that can be played, especially if focusing more on subtraction, is to grab some dominos or toys that can stand up on their own. Next, grab a ball and bowl those toys down. So, if you start with 9 toys and are left with 5 still standing, you will say, “9 – 4 = 5.” See who the better bowler is when doing this and feel free to create some extra challenging layouts to bowl down. 😉

Feeling super creative? Create an addition or subtraction board game with your child. An easy one would be to create bingo cards and then flip cards or roll 2 dice to create the questions. It could be a simple card with only a few numbers on each. Adding a prize for the winner may help for some extra incentive.

Do you have any favorite ways to work on basic addition or subtraction with your child that I missed? If so, please add them in the comments below. 🙂

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