Teaching Addition With
Base Ten Blocks


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Teaching addition with base ten blocks will make your job easier and make the math more understandable to students because they can see what they are doing. Your students need to not just know all 45 of their addends but they need to master them. Most methods try to accomplish this with worksheets and drill, but I say be careful with worksheets.

Perhaps you are unaware of how poorly the worksheet  method works...kids learn to hate math and worksheets at an early age. There are only 45 addends so it's not SO bad, but then the same method is applied to multiplication where there are 144 facts or at minimum 81 and students begin to rebel. The best way to teach anything is through play. Here is a page that goes into some detail about playing.

How about making this process easy and fun? I have written quite a few blog posts about this over the years. Here are two posts showing actual footage in classrooms with first and second graders. You will note we do a lot more than just addition and subtraction.

Teaching Addition With Base Ten Blocks In The Classroom

Check out these links for more and also use your favorite search engine for the latest blog posts and videos...you might try Crewton Ramone In The Classroom or Crewton Ramone Classroom.

Crewton Ramone In The Classroom.

Crewton Ramone Using Base Ten Blocks In The Classroom.

Kids will build towers and houses and pyramids and cubes and all manner of structures with blocks over and over again...and it's fun. Filling out a worksheet is negative fun most of the time. You just have to make sure they are using addends to make the pillars and walls not just the same block over and over again.

The concept is simple to start. Numbers are made up of other numbers. Making tens and nines to start is easy...put the student in a situation where they can't fail use a tray for example to make 10's. While you are at it you can throw a little algebra in there...once they have built tens a few times they see there are only 5 combinations.  (Six if you count 10 + 0.) And if you've played what's under the cup enough times 7 + x = 10 is easy...because they have seen it. And terms like additive inverse may sound confusing but are easy to understand...get rid of the 7 from both sides and you can easily see the 3.

For Parents And Teachers:

Here is a video that explains some concepts in detail. You can see that we can't really do addition without some subtraction and vise-versa.  Watch this video it's HUGELY important to understand.

Watch this video carefully. It is deceptively simple. Quite a few primary education teachers have a hard time with adding the addend. It just goes against the grain...but using base ten blocks and addends for teaching addition make it easy to understand and I assure you after 20 and more years of doing this: KIDS GET IT.

Teachers of mathematics may enjoy the simplicity of the presentation (I hope) and whether you are a teacher or not I expect you can see how many concepts go together. You may also end up compound teaching by accident. This is why people who use this method say (without boasting) that we can teach more in an hour than "traditional" methods do all week, that's not to say many traditional techniques are backward archaic ineffectual and stupid but...

Here is a little tip for people who have wobbly desks or kids who may have some challenges with fine motor skills due to autism or vaccine damage or what have you. Make your towers sturdier.

Sometimes it's the little things that make the difference. You may not be able to incorporate this tip in the classroom but at home it's easy to do. You also need it for lessons on square roots and besides it's just plain FUN.


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“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~William Arthur Ward

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” ~Aristotle

“The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” ~Albert Einstein

"Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play." ~Heraclitus

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