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It All Adds Up! Elementary Math Lessons and Ideas for the Classroom

By Carole Bruzzano

Do your students groan at the thought of math? Try some of these lessons and activities that maximize student interaction through teacher modeling, guided practice, peer collaboration, technology and independent practice. Your students will be math whizzes in no time!

Sum Up Learning

A variety of research-based teaching strategies are applied in these math lessons and activity ideas presented here. Ensure quality learning experiences by applying effective tools for teaching critical math skills. Browse through this guide and choose the lesson that meets your curriculum objectives and students' needs.

Math Foundations

Collection of Elementary Math Lesson Plans, Activities and Ideas Math lessons in the primary grades, specifically preschool though second grade, build a foundation for understanding numbers and basic math concepts. The first three lessons here teach preschool students basic math concepts such as size, comparisons, patterns, counting and money. Big and Small, for example, uses dress up, comparisons and movement activities, while The Polar Express contains activities to use after reading the book with the same title. These activities teach math word problem solving skills as well. Math With Apples contains activities to teach about patterns, counting and money.

The Ordinal Numbers lesson can be used to teach first, second and third place to kindergarten students. The Odd and Even lesson can be used for grades kindergarten, 1 and 2 for teaching the concept of odd and even numbers through an engaging and fun game.

Counting, Adding, Subtracting

These math lessons support a strong math foundation. Lessons here address simple addition and subtraction. Several of the lessons include sorting and measuring as part of the addition and subtraction process - combining these processes ensures students are well-prepared for solving future multi-step math problems.

Lessons are listed by grade beginning with Counting Fish for preschool, then Counting Numbers for kindergarten. Skip Counting and Addition and Subtraction are for students in 1st and 2nd grade. Basic Addition and Subtraction Facts and Subtracting Lessons can be implemented at the 2nd through 4th grade level.

Choose a lesson from this list based on students' abilities. For example, lessons identified for first grade may be used for re-teaching students in second grade, or for teaching an advanced kindergarten group. Based on your assessment of students' math abilities, choose the lessons that best meet your students' needs.

Place Value, Multiplication and Division

The lessons included here contain an array of activities that address the more complex concepts of place value, multiplication and division. These lessons provide guided practice and independent application of new skills and can be used for students in any grade who need to practice these skills.

Place Value uses a hands-on activity with beans and cups. Place Value With Base 10 Blocks uses a game format for teaching place value. Multiplication Facts calls for students to create a multiplication book. 4th Grade Multiplication is not only limited to 4th grade; this lesson provides ideas for using flash cards, games and songs for teaching multiplication for students needing the extra practice. The Learning Division lesson provides the basic steps for introducing students to the division process. And last, Simple Division and Conversion of Units provides alternative, simple methods for teaching students to divide.

All of the lessons can be used for introducing new skills, re-teaching the skills or extending other lessons. You decide based on your group's level of understanding.

Measurement and The Metric System

The links presented here assist your efforts in teaching students the concept of measurement. Students will learn about and apply measurement in various ways.

Metric Conversion provides tips and ideas for teaching students about the metric system and why it is important to learn. If You Give A Mouse a Cookie and Measurement with Baking uses measurement in baking to teach measurement to students. First Grade Measurement and Second Grade Measurement include lesson activities for introducing students to the basics of measurement. Unit of Length Measurement teaches students about measurement by beginning with an activity to help them understand why they need to know about it for real-life purposes, then continues with interactive games for applying measurement skills.


Teach your students about abstract concepts with hands-on activities. Through these visual and kinesthetic activities, students learn and apply geometry skills in engaging and interactive ways using various materials to identify, create and measure shapes and angles.

Try these lessons to support your teaching of shape and angle recognition to your elementary students.


Money counts! The better students are able to understand and work with problems involving money, the more prepared they will be to solve real-life problems involving money in and out of school.

Counting Money allows students to make choices in spending. Economics in Primary Grades uses the book, Corduroy, to teach about purchasing and saving in the lower grades. Learning About Money involves counting, saving and earning money activities for primary grade students. Money Math suits the middle elementary grades and is for students who can add and subtract. Students learn to make change with this lesson. Last, Money and Life Skills teaches students to make certain amounts of money with various coin combinations.

Math and Technology

The links presented here assist you in technology integration for math instruction. Varying instructional activities, extending lessons and providing students with opportunities for independent application of skills are a few of the benefits of integrating these ideas and activities.

SMARTBoard Math Games includes Internet links to free SMARTBoard math games to use with your students. Using the SMARTBoard in Math guides you in using the SMARTBoard tools and features during math lessons. Math Class iPod Touch Apps for Math explores 10 iPod apps that can be utilized in your math classroom to reenforce specific math skills.

Special Needs

Use this section on special needs math lessons for meeting the accommodations identified for your special needs students. The first lesson, Math Activities for Autistic Children, incorporates specific techniques for teaching math skills to the Autistic population. The lessons that follow provide activities for groups with mixed classifications.

Use these lessons for small group instruction in your inclusion classroom or for whole group instruction in your self-contained special needs class. Yet, they don't have to be limited to classified students; they may be used with students struggling to master specific skills as well.

Keep your students engaged through the use of varied activities. Studies show that math phobias are common in elementary school students. Use these ideas to keep math interesting and fun! The lessons are designed to support student engagement, interest and effort.