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Hands-on Addition and Subtraction Activities

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Watch addition and subtraction leap off the page with these hands-on addition and subtraction activities for kids!

Hands-on Addition and Subtraction Activities

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Why Hands-On Learning is Great for Teaching Addition and Subtraction

When you think about it, learning math is a challenge!

You begin by teaching a child to count, and just a few years later, you expect him to answer you when you ask him, “What is 5 + 3?” To get from point A to point B, the child has to make huge mental leaps from the concrete world to abstract ideas (like adding on and taking away in your mind).

How can you smooth out the journey?

By making math more hands-on.

Addition activities give the child a chance to see, touch, and feel what is happening in an addition problem.

With subtraction activities, the child can physically take away objects, bringing subtraction to life.

Even once your child can think about addition and subtraction in an abstract sense, she will still benefit from hands-on activities.

They break up the humdrum routine of worksheet, worksheet, worksheet, and introduce fun, motion, and novelty to math time.

If you want your kids to love math, you must add fun to your lesson plans.

Enter addition activities and subtraction activities that are hands-on and engaging!

Hands-on Addition and Subtraction Activities

Ways to Make Math Hands-On

It’s easy to make math hands-on with these winning addition activities and subtraction activities.


Make math a game with puzzles.

Your kids can set their pencils aside and start putting the math facts together with their hands and fingers.

Check out these Valentine’s Day Addition and Subtraction Puzzles.

You can mend broken hearts simply by matching the math fact with its sum or difference.


Manipulatives are the natural bridge from counting numbers to adding/subtracting.

You can purchase colorful math manipulatives like plastic teddy bears, number discs, or toy monkeys.

You can also use small objects repurposed from other uses such as paperclips, coins, glass gems, or Lego blocks.

And don’t forget edible manipulatives such as Cheerios, raisins, and M&Ms.

Who doesn’t want to do some addition activities when you get to eat your answers afterward?

Hands-on Addition and Subtraction Activities

Egg Carton Counting

Empty egg cartons can be an excellent way to make math hands-on.

Cut off the last two egg cups from a carton to make a group of ten.

Do this to two or more egg cartons.

Now you can use manipulatives to add and subtract by placing one manipulative in each egg cup.

Egg cartons are handy when you practice adding numbers to get a sum greater than 10.

For example, to show 5 + 6, place five manipulatives in the egg cups to start.

Then you add on 6. What do you see?

You have a group of 10 plus 1 more: that’s 11!

Math Mats

Math Mats are laminated mats that make counting and grouping easier.

You can use them with manipulatives to make tens (similar to egg cartons) or compare two numbers (to see if they are greater than, less than, or equal to).

You can also use dry-erase markers to make number bonds, write math facts fill-in-the-blank style, or practice subtraction (simply wipe the number amount away).

Hands-on Addition and Subtraction Activities

Full Body Math Problems 

Students get to work with tiny manipulatives all the time–why not use giant manipulatives instead?

Add and subtract people for some full-body math problems.

Kids will love to be a part of the math practice!

What do you get when you add 5 more kids to 3 kids?

(Answer: a party!)

Graphs You Can Color

Graphing can be a simple, hands-on math activity.

A graph is a picture of numbers being added and compared.

Make it active and engaging by adding some novelty dice.

Check out this free Roll and Graph Farm Game to add ducks, goats, and farmers!

Hands-on Addition and Subtraction Activities

Making Interactive Addition and Subtraction Activities

Math doesn’t have to involve only pencil and paper.

Enliven the math lesson with these quick and hands-on addition activities and subtraction activities.

Not only will your kids enjoy themselves, but they will also transition smoothly from concrete to abstract thinking.

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