Math Tip Monday: Addition & Subtraction Basics

So, last month I wasn't quite ready to get involved with the September Math Tip Monday, but I am finally getting back into my routine and sorting myself out, which means I'm all sorted for October's Math Tip Monday.

Well - I say that, I totally forgot until I had an email off one of the fabulous organisers Saturday night - oops!! Now I'm gonna spend some time getting some more of the blog posts done ready - phew :) 

So, this month is all about addition and subtraction basis. 

For me, the way that we teach our children may be totally different to you. It may or may not work for you, but I hope I'll be able to give you some ideas of what may work for you in class!

So, with children with autism, a lot of what they learn needs to be done visually, so we use a lot of visuals. Unfortunately, you have me at a disadvantage and I don't have any photos of this, so i've had to quickly make something up online and share it so you get the gist of what i'm trying to get - I apologise, but I'll try my best! :) 

So, here we go.

The following two images are base boards. So, these are printed out as you see, then laminated just as they are, nothing else, just like that!



So, next up you need the sum. The sum can be written on the board underneath the boxes or you can have sums printed out and laminated just to place on the bottom. So, for now, let's use the addition as the example - the same rules will apply to subtraction, you'll just be taking away instead of adding!

Right, so you are now looking at this board in front of you. Now, find some objects - anything you like, the counting bears are always really popular but literally anything you want to use to help the students count - just use it! If you have a student who is so unimpressed with math that this is going to be a nightmare for them, pick out something they like - if they like dinosaurs, use small dinosaur figures!

Get them to separate the numbers to boxes. So the number 5 will go in the left box then the number 4 in the right box. Put the correct amount of objects in the boxes.

So now, you have something that looks like this - just with real objects.

Now, just get the children to physically count each of the teddies/objects. Once they have counted them all they have their answer!! It's a great way for students to actually visualise the sum and count it out. Over time you can make it as complicated/easy as you think the student needs, eg. 5 + 3 - 1 = ? 

Soon, the student will be able to do it without the visual approach - start by removing the box on the left. So they'll start counting with 5 then count the next 4 so their counting will go like this; 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, instead of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 etc.

How do you introduce basic addition and subtraction in your class? 



  1. Nice idea! Can you show a picture representation on how the subtraction is done?

    1. Thanks, it works really well surprisingly, it's hard to show without actual pictures of it in use if that makes sense?! I can try get pics made up tonight of what it is, but it's basically exactly the same just with a minus sign instead of the plus sign :)

  2. Do you still use 2 base boards for subtraction? How do you represent the total which you are taking away from?

    1. Sorry Margo, totally didn't get around to doing this!! I will get onto it now for you to make up something on computer to show you what I mean. So basically you would have the base board. You have the two empty boxes either side of the - sign instead of + sign.

      You put the sum underneath so for example 6 - 2 = ?

      So in the box on the left you put 6 objects, in the box on the right you would put 2. To show 6 - 2.
      You can approach it anyway you want, one of the more popular ways is to count out 2 of the objects on the left, then take them away - so they take away the same amount as shown on the right. It's quite hard and it's still a very new system being tested out :)

      The best way is to try it out with a few students and that way you can sort of learn from them what technique works best with them, it may be that you just have one box with the sum below it, they count out 6 objects to put in the box, look at the next part of the sum - take away 2 - and take away 2 objects from the box, then count what is left behind.

      Most of our kiddos aren't quite on subtraction yet so it's all trial and error :)


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