Yesterday I received an email from a mom asking for tips on teaching her son addition.

My reply:

For addition and subtraction, I recommend Cuisenaire Rods by Learning Resources. I found these on Amazon. These connecting rods in different colors come in sizes from 1 to 10 cells. Your son will see that to make a rod as long as the ten, he can use two 5s or a 5, a 3 and a 2. Manipulatives make math real.

It’s important to teach children early on the concept of ODD and EVEN numbers. I recommend using M&Ms, Cheerios or pennies to teach this. All EVEN numbers can be grouped in 2s but with an ODD number, one is always left over. You might take an egg carton and have your son distribute 15 M&Ms (two by two) in the carton. One will be left over. Now compare with 16. He will learn that all even numbers end with 2, 4, 6, 8 or 0.

Let your son see the pattern of EVEN numbers. These can be grouped in 2s. When you add two even numbers, you are keeping an EVEN pattern. When you add two ODD numbers, the extra one combines with the extra one of the other number and makes a pair. Do this with pennies. The only time you get an ODD total is when you add an EVEN and an ODD number.

For my son, I would take addition flash cards and go through these. I would not ask for the total but whether the total would be ODD or EVEN: 9 + 6 versus 9 + 5.

Also fun is to open an M&M bag (small) and count the M&Ms — first the grand total. Now count how many reds, blues, etc. Which colors are odd numbers? Which are even? If you have a bag and are counting yours at the same time, it makes this more interesting as the bags will vary in number of reds etc. and one bag may have that extra M&M. Make a bar graph of the different colors. This will immediately show your child how many more yellows that red. If you do this on graph paper, the graph will end up looking like the Cuisenaire rods. Then for the ODD M&Ms give your child an extra one of yours.

Again, real objects that a child manipulates make math real. It’s also good to use coins as children are always interested in money. A dime is EVEN but what about a quarter? How many different ways can your son combine coins to equal a quarter? For a quarter, he will have a minimum of 3 coins. There are no 2 coins that will equal a quarter. If you tell your son he can keep the coins after the math lesson, he will be exra motivated to do this lesson.

Tags: Addition, Eugenia Francis, Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, TeaCHildMath, Tips for teaching addition