Adding with a Number Line

Looking for a low-prep way to introduce number lines as an addition strategy in first grade? Keep reading for a simple, concrete way to help even your reluctant mathematicians jump onboard the addition train!



Your mathematicians LOVE seeing the math in front of them. For starters, we review the other strategies we’ve already practiced (manipulatives, drawing pictures, and counting on). I always make sure to remind them that my job is to teach them a lot of strategies so they may choose which one ultimately suits them the best.

Next, we discuss how numbers have patterns and they must go in order. (At this point, I deliberately place the numbers out of order and count objects incorrectly. The kids think it’s hilarious and it makes me feel like I’m funny for 2.5 seconds).

The solution? We turn the number line into a game of “I have, who has?” Kids place the numbers that I so craftily wrote on index cards in sequence. Then, we count!

We practice counting forwards and backwards. As a group, I model writing number sentences and select a few students to help me place a fancy koosh ball in the right place on our number line. From here, students help us make jumps from one number to the next to solve our equations.


The kids can’t resist the power of the koosh.

After we practice this for a little while, we move to the real MVP.


Simply take some zipper ziploc bags and write the numbers 1-10 along the top.

As students received their bags, we practiced counting forward, making x number of jumps, etc.

Next, we rolled two dice and wrote our number sentence on the bags (YES – they’re dry erasable!). The kids identified which number was greater to know where to begin and then moved forward the given number of spaces. The best part? The kids can practice their addition in this way at HOME, too!

Happy math-ing, my friends!



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