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I know what you’re thinking…a young preschool child cannot grasp the understanding and meaning behind addition and subtraction. It is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate. Well, what if I told you that you are ABSOLUTELY WRONG in your thinking!! Children as young as four are capable of completing simple addition and subtraction problems. It is all in the way it is presented to them. Remember, presentation is EVERYTHING!! Beginning lessons on simple addition and subtraction can be done once a child has mastered their numbers from one to twenty. When I say mastered, I mean that if you show them random numbers (out of order) from one to twenty, they should be able to tell you what it is without hesitation. I have however, scaled down and introduced and even simpler version of addition and subtraction using numerals from one to ten.
Depending on what lessons the child had already had, determines on which method of teaching addition I start with. If a child has had lessons on learning and has mastered the one to nine bead stair and the teen bead stair, then I will introduce simple addition using the double bead stair.
The bead stair is a set of beads from one to nine with a colored bead that represents each number. The 1 bead is red, the 2 bead is green, the 3 bead is pink, the 4 bead is yellow, the 5 bead is light blue, the 6 bead is purple, the 7 bead is white, the 8 bead is brown, and the 9 bead is dark blue. The children are supposed to master recognition of numbers one to nine, as well as the color that corresponds with each number.
The teen bead stair introduces the 10 golden bead, and pairs it with the one to nine colored beads to master numbers eleven to nineteen.
The double bead stair is just that. It is a tray that contains two sets of bead stairs; one to ten. The children use it to complete simple addition problems. I write out problems in random order, and the children select the first number(corresponding bead) in the problem from the first bead stair, and the second number(corresponding bead) in the problem from the second bead stair. I point out that the symbol in the middle of both numbers is a addition sign, and that we will be adding the numbers of both beads together. I then have them count all of the beads, and write their answer in the empty box on their paper. The beads are very close together, so I give them a “bead counter” to use; which is just a bread bag tie broken in half!
The other way that I introduce simple addition is by using inexpensive glass beads. I use these glass beads to introduce simple subtraction as well. Just like in the other lesson, I write out random addition problems and have them get the correct number of counting beads for the first number. I have them leave a small space, and then have them get the correct number of counting beads for the second number. They then put them together, count them all, and write their answer in the empty box on their paper.
For simple subtraction, it is presented a little different. I have to introduce new language to the child. I use the words “take away” when first introducing subtraction so they know that is what they are going to need to do. I also point out that the symbol in the middle is different than before; it is a “take away” sign. I again write out random problems, then have then get the correct number of beads for the first number. Then I make it a point to remind them that we are going to “take away” the correct amount of beads for the second number. They then write the answer in the empty box on their paper.
It is that simple! Teaching simple addition and simple subtraction can be just that easy. If you would rather not purchase the Montessori bead stair works or the beads, you can use whatever you have at home. Spare change, small candies, beans; the product you use does not matter. The process of doing the operations of addition and subtraction is what matters. Just have fun with it and let your child learn from the materials you have! Enjoy!