Top 7 Addition Strategies for 2nd and 3rd Grade
In order to be successful learning how to add big numbers in 2nd and 3rd grade, kids need to be confident with their math facts. They must know the sums of all of the one-digit numbers without having to count on their fingers. Counting on fingers is a fine tool, but it takes so long that it will not be efficient when adding larger numbers. Kids will forget their place in the problem when they stop to count, and it takes a long time, so frustration will set in as well.
If you need something to help these kids master their math facts, here are some helpful products that you can put into kids' hands.
Once a child has a strong understanding of math facts and place value, they will be able to quickly master adding much larger numbers.
I know that a lot of people wonder why teachers don't just teach the algorithm anymore. It is fast and easy. What is the deal with all of these other methods? I know for a lot of parents they seem like a waste of time. However, these strategies develop a strong number sense that allows kids to understand how they are working with numbers instead of memorizing steps from the teacher.
These strategies are also a bridge from the learning the students did in earlier grades with smaller numbers to working with larger numbers in the future. They can see how all of the pieces they are learning fit together instead of having to learn distinct concepts every year.
1) Hundreds Chart
The hundreds chart is not my go-to strategy, but I think it is amazing. I never learned this strategy in school, and (because I never taught second grade) I never came across it teaching. I saw this at my daughter's back to school night, and I thought it was so cool. It only works with numbers on a hundreds chart, so you could use it with three-digit numbers if you had a giant hundreds chart, but usually this is only helpful for two-digit numbers.
Here is how it works: Circle one of the numbers you are adding. Then, move down one row for every ten you are adding to the number. Next, move to the right one box for every one you are adding. If you come to the end of a row, move to beginning of the next row down.
1) Base Ten Drawings
Base ten drawings are usually the first strategy kids learn in school. This is one step harder than working with the physical base ten blocks. Most kids feel very comfortable with this strategy because they are drawing pictures and then counting. While it seems simple, it does require that kids have a strong number sense.
How it works: Kids draw a square for each 100, a line or thin rectangle for each 10, and a small square or circle for each 1. Kids draw both numbers they are adding and then count the total number of 100s, 10s, and 1s.
3) Number Line
I really like using a number line when dealing with time, but it is not my favorite for adding and subtracting. That being said, it is really helpful for some kids who think linearly. They can count up on the number line to add. It is also helpful because kids choose what they count by. It is more efficient to count up by bigger numbers, but kids don't have to - they can count by any number they feel comfortable using.
How it works: Kids place one of the numbers they are adding on the number line. They can then move forward along the number line as many places as the other number they are adding.
4) Place Value Chart
This is my personal favorite strategy because it quick to use and easy to stretch for bigger numbers. I feel like it is also a great last step before using the algorithm. Plus, it is super easy to show regrouping when adding which can be a tough concept for kids to understand.
How it works: Draw a place value chart showing each of the values that you have in your problem. If you are adding three-digit numbers you would have hundreds, tens, and ones on your chart. Then, put dots to show the first number you are adding in the chart according to their value. Then, put dots for the second number you are adding in the chart. Count up the dots to find the totals for ones, tens, and hundreds.
If you are counting the dots and have more than 10 in one box in the place value chart, circle those 10 dots and transfer them to the next highest box as one dot. This shows that 10 ones equal 1 ten or 10 tens equal 1 hundred.
5) Add 10s, Add 1s, Combine
I am sure this is not the official name of this strategy. This is another strategy I got from my daughter. Last year, when she was in second grade, this was my oldest daughter's favorite strategy for adding. It is very similar to the algorithm, but instead of stacking the numbers to add the ones, tens, and hundreds separately, you just use lines to add each value separately and then combine them together.
How it works: Draw lines to connect the ones and add the two numbers, draw lines to connect the tens and add the two numbers, and draw lines to connect the hundreds and add the two numbers. Finally, put the three numbers together. If you have more than 9 of any number, remember to add the ten to the next highest number.
6) Totals Below
Totals below is a strategy I learned from the Engage New York curriculum. It is really similar to the algorithm. So similar, it was definitely confusing at first. I am not sure how helpful this strategy is, but it might work for some kids who need an extra step before working with the algorithm.
How it works: Line up the numbers just like you are adding with the algorithm. On the first row under the numbers show the ones added up together. On the second row, show the tens added together. Remember to write them as tens such as 20 instead of 2. On the third row, show the hundreds added together. Remember to write them as hundreds such as 200 instead of 2. Finally, add together all of the numbers you have just written to get your final answer.
7) Standard Algorithm
This is the strategy that most of us learned in school. I don't know about you, but I always made a lot of mistakes with this because I didn't have a strong number sense to support the work I was going. Now, of course, it is my favorite way to add because it is so fast.
How it works: Stack the two numbers you are adding on top of each other with ones, tens, and hundreds lined up. Add up the ones and write the answer under the ones. Add up the tens and write the answer under the tens. Add up the hundreds and write the answer under the hundreds.
I hope that these were helpful to you in understanding all of the different ways mathematicians can add. All of these strategies can be used to add numbers as big as you can imagine - it will just take a little time.
I am all about saving teacher's time and giving them tools to put into kids' hands, so here are some products to help kids practice adding using some of these strategies. Note that some of the products have a grade level in the title. These grade levels are not set in stone, every product has pages that kids who need practice with adding can use. Also, the Engage New York worksheets do not need to be used in conjunction with Engage.