Teaching Basic Addition and Subtraction in First Grade

I have created this list to help teachers who are teaching basic addition and subtraction facts. This will help assist students to learn the basic fact families up to 18 ( Virginia Standard of Learning 1.5 and 1.6)

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Chrysanthemum  by Kevin Henkes is book about a younger girl who is going to school and discovers that her name is too long. She had always loved her name but now with all of her classmates mocking her, she decides that she needs a shorter name. Although the book does not directly use addition and subtraction, as the teacher you can uses this book to jump start and activity of adding up all of the letters in your student’s names. It also teaches a lesson on being nice to others and acceptance.


What’s New at the Zoo? An Animal Adding Adventure by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Joan Waites is book that counts and adds up the several different animals at the zoo. The illustrations are watercolor paintings and are really great. This book is a great introduction to basic skills. I like how the book also uses a lot of rhyming patterns which is important for young readers. There is also a section in the back of the book with educator notes and ideas for lessons


Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst and Illustrated by Ray Cruz is a book about Alexander and how he looses all of his money. It makes the connection of subtraction and can also introduce the concept of spending money and how you can have to make decisions. This book is part of the series that talks about Alexander and his adventures. I really enjoy how real the book is and how easy Alexander is to relate to. There are plenty of ways that you can use this book while teaching subtraction such as subtracting the money as he spends it but do that without using the decimals.


Domino Addition by Lynette Long, PhD is a great piece of literature to introduce dominoes to the class. Each page walks through a set of dominoes and adds them up to 12.  The photographs in the book are vivid and could be clearly seen if being read to the class. This book is great to introduce basic addition and subtraction. It helps children understand how fact families work and gives a visual for the visual learners in your class. This book will keep students actively engaged with the questions they ask.


12 Ways to Get to 11 by Eve Merriam and Illustrated by Bernie Karlin is a small book that uses several items to establish how the students add to 11. “Out of the magician’s hat: four banners, five rabbits, a pitcher of water, and a bouquet of flowers”; or, “Go past four corners and two traffic lights, then past the house with two chimneys and the garage with two cars and a bicycle. Now look, you’re at Eleventh Street” ‘ The book has a lot of great illustrations. The text would be great way to introduce number stories and have students make their own number stories.  The author has written the book to allow for good class discussion.

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Alien Addition Game is  a fun game that helps students review basic addition facts. The game is noisy so students would need headphones if playing at a center. The game provides good practice in the commutative principal. It is also great because it a fast-paced games and is something that boys would like because it blowing up space ships.

Funbrain Math Baseball is a game that helps with addition facts. I like this game because it has 4 levels so that it can be changed depending on the skill of the student. The website has several other games and also some worksheets that go along with the addition game.

The ArithmAttack is a game for kids where you can decide if you would like to  be test on either addition or subtraction. It also has division for the more advanced students. The player can select the highest number that can be added or subtracted and the lowest number as well. Each problem allows the student 60 seconds to answer and if you get it wrong, the site provides the correct answer.

Adding Bricks is a game that uses bricks to guide the players in addition. There are pictures of each brick and it also has the addition problem set up vertically. The game does not give the correct answer but it does have the visual of the bricks  that a student can count.  The game is loud so headphones would be needed if a students were using during centers or in the classroom.

Subtraction Magician is a subtraction game that the player can select the degree of difficulty. The game allows 1 minute for 20 questions. There are 2 different ” mixes”. This game is a great way to review subtraction without using standard flashcards. It is a fun game and helps students work quickly to insure that they are memorizing the fact families.

Additional Resources:

Math and Literature is a website with lists of several pieces of literature that could be used during math and have elements of language arts. The website tells the importance of reading and using reading in cross-curricular ways. Using reading can help develop language skills and vocabulary associated with math.

Math Activity Worksheets is a website that has themed worksheets for addition and subtraction. There are several different worksheets and some other math skill other than addition and subtraction. The website is set up by grade level and features what are grade level appropriate activities and worksheets.

Mrs. McGowan’s Fact Family is a page on Mrs. McGowan’s website that allows her to share her classroom ideas. The Fact Family page explains how she teaches the concept of fact families in addition and subtraction. The site gives alternate webpages and activities for explaining addition and subtraction. Mrs. McGowan also includes the importance of the  connection of literature in math.

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