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How to Teach Addition with Regrouping in 5 Simple Steps

If your goal is to teach your students strategies that lead to the standards algorithm, you are in the right space! 


But remember, if you are teaching 1st or 2nd grade students, the standard algorithm is not necessarily your end goal at this point in time. 

Addition With Regrouping Header with Worksheet

In 1st and 2nd grade you are teaching strategies based on place value and you are connecting those methods to a written method. Can that written method be the standard algorithm? Of course! But if you have students who are “stuck” using manipulatives or drawings, don’t sweat it- they are exactly where they need to be. 

All of that being said, let’s dive in and take a look at the micro-steps you can take to bring your students from hands-on to written method. 

Start with a Groupable Model

When you initially students to add two 2-digit numbers together, don’t worry about the written method at all. Simply use a groupable model such as linking cubes to support students in showing their thinking. 

It may be helpful to ask students to lay their linking cubes out on a place value chart so that they can begin to make the connection between addition and place value. 
A groupable model is important because your students can physically put ten ones together to create a new ten. This is an important step- don’t skip it! 



Move to a Pre-Grouped Model


As your students show proficiency with a groupable model, ask them to add 2-digit numbers using a pre-grouped model such as base ten blocks or place value disks (seen above). 
This step is critical because it strips away the scaffolding of students putting ones together to create a ten. Students have to trust that ten ones is the same as a ten. 
At the same time, you aren’t stripping away the concrete, hands-on support yet. You’re taking a baby step towards deeper understanding. 

Link to a Written Method

As your students begin to show confidence with pre-grouped models, you can introduce the written algorithm DIRECTLY ALONGSIDE their hands-on work. Step-by-step, model each step your students complete in their hands-on work using a written model. 

You are building a connection between something your students know (hands-on work) and a written method (the algorithm). 



Add in Drawings on a Place Value Chart


No, some day when your students are in the grocery store adding together the cost of various items they will not have a hands-on tool with them. Transitioning away from manipulatives is necessary- but take care to do so carefully and with new supports in place! 
Introduce the use of drawings on a place value chart for your students directly alongside the hands-on tools and manipulatives they have been practicing with up until this point. 
It may sound something like this “I see you built 62 and 19 using place value disks. How might that look if we draw 62 and 19 on a place value chart?” “I see you put the 2 ones and 9 ones together. You made a new ten and still had a one left over. How could we show that in our drawing on the place value chart?” 
Step by step build connection between hands-on tools and the representational model. 

Link to a Written Method (Again) 



Your students know how to draw a place value drawing and they know how to model their thinking using a written method. Don’t take for granted that they see the connection between these two models! Allow your students the chance to represent addition on a place value chart alongside a written model.

Take baby steps, link new ideas to models your students are comfortable with whenever possible and don’t move too fast- your 1st and 2nd grade students have plenty of time to master this skill! Sitting in manipulatives and drawings as long as is necessary will only benefit your students! 
Follow these steps yourself or grab my ready-made unit. You will find pre and post assessment, five lessons (hint- they follow these five steps!), independent practice to mirror each lesson and exit tickets so you can progress monitor along the way! 







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