Basic Addition - Lesson and Tips

This lesson is a jumping off point to become a unit done in days, weeks, years of learning however necessary. Never take a lesson and end it, keep it going. 

The key is to inspire students, no matter what skill level. 

Note: Most math curriculums think they meet the needs of diverse learners by offering many learning/teaching approaches to come to the same mathematical answers. I have interviewed MANY, many teachers at all levels. They say the same thing, you are confusing students. Yes, some learners need alternate ways to come to the same answer: number lines, manipulatives, show your work, do it sideways and vertical...but teachers are skilled and can show this to their students. Don’t teach everyone 8 ways to add 4+5=. UGH. 


The student will add basic addition from 0 to 5. 


What does the child know?
Have they identified numbers 1-10?
Can they show you what a number means by using manipulatives? What do I want them to learn?
What skills are required for them to achieve this goal?
What adaptations must be in place for optimal learning? 

This lesson can be adapted to ANY age group. You will see this in many of my lessons, why, because this is a tool, use it to fit your needs. 


  • Lakeshore Flashcards
  • 100s number board just for exposure
  • Black background for table, I use black cardstock
  • Solid colored sticky notes
  • White board
  • Manipulatives
  • Number line for exposure, to be taught formally in future lesson 

Large print "4+7=11" flashcard above the number line with moveable arrow on a black background.

Photo of Sadie intently looking at Counting app (iPad screen is perpendicular to table) with number line on table.

Great FREE app I found for Sadie in her first grade year: 

Learning to Count app

screenshot of Learning to Count app with image of cartoon black bird.

Great App for Pre-K and still use in 1st grade: 

Starfall app


  • Teacher will formally introduce numbers by placing flashcard numbers 1-5 in order
  • Teacher will hold up or touch with student each number as they count to 5, do this several times
  • Put a simple addition problem on a whiteboard and use manipulatives to show the problem with a black background
  • Use the same language continually – see my videos for a demo 

 “4 plus 1 equals how many all together” 

Photo of iPad screen with a glow drawing app: "4+1=5 or 7 with the 5 circled. there are four circles drawn in a row with 1 circle below.

This is an example of how we use a glow app to draw problems and we count the dots we make, I put a line through the dot as we count for ease. 

Play a game as reinforces or additional lessons:

  • Ideas: clap the number, jump the number, put a yellow 3 inch paper circle under each flashcard to show what each number represents and count them, show 2 flashcards and ask which to point to the correct number requested, have 2 sets of flashcards and match 1-5, play singing videos on the Ipad (I love “five little pumpkins sitting on a gate" Youtube video)
  • Starfall has a free version for learning and Sadie and I love it. They have great reinforcement learning activities. 
  • Allow for independent looking at iPad or reading number books that are CVI friendly 
  • Find objects like shells, colored counting bears, cottonballs and use a new manipulatives after they have started to master this lesson to increase the baseline and make crossover connections 


As I did with my own kids growing up and then with my students at school, there are endless opportunities to count!
Make numbers personal:

“OH look, that is the number 5, that’s your number!” “If we add one more, how many will you be on your next birthday?”

“There is the number 3, that’s how old your sister is going to be next week.”

“Let’s count how many shoes you have and then how many shoes I have and then add them all together!” 

More Math Ideas

APH hundred board ($15), we let all the students in her class use it and we also had one just her own that she took home. Yes, we get to count to a hundred, over and over again. This helps our CVI kids understand that numbers go on FOREVER. Find a peer who is good at it and get them to help. Then this is the time to introduce skip counting: 10, 20 30, 40... 

Number Line that I recommend, comes in a pack of 6 and it is bold and easy to use 

photo taken at school with Sadie using number line and with APH's hundreds chart in front of her.

Screenshot of Amazon item, Hand2Mind number paths (number line with moveable arrow) for $19.24


  • Make sure you have the child point and look while counting. This is hard for our CVI kids. If it’s too much and a break doesn’t help, then change it while making sure they touch while counting.
  • Manupulatives need to be easy to see and they don’t move around too much. If they do, kids will recount or lose count.
  • Consistency is key like using the same language each time
  • Always start counting left to right
  • Play the same games with numbers till there is success and start small 1-5 

I started using 2 inch sticky notes on black cardstock so they stay in place as counting manipulatives.

Flashcard with 1+8= and 2" pink sticky note in first column and 8 2" yellow sticky notes in second column.

  • Don’t keep changing flashcards, the look of numbers, fonts, etc. until the student is really good at recognizing numbers: novelty will confuse. This is something you can expand on once the skill is mastered
  • Zero is a hard concept, don’t be surprised if they are confused by this meaning “nothing” - I do a whole separate lesson with zero and it takes some students a few lessons to really understand. 


With CVI the introduction will be novel. 

I’m not a tester, I assess. A test means there can be failure. There is no failure for us. 

The child has achieved this learning activity when they can “tell” verbally or by showing you basic addition facts. Sadie tells me by circling her answer or by pointing on a number line since she has trouble with writing her numbers. Do what works for your student. 


Other posts in this series: