Addition, like all mathematical concepts, is sequential which means that content is taught and builds on the foundations of previously learnt concepts. It is therefore very important that children have strong mathematical foundations.
Throughout the school years the addition strategies your child uses will become more efficient. Younger children will count on their fingers or use concrete materials (counters, blocks etc) to reduce the load on their working memory. As your child’s working memory and visualisation skills develop they will rely less on the use of concrete materials. A reliance on concrete materials past 7-8 years is an indicator that your child may require assistance with mathematical concepts and could have a learning difficulty.
Parents need to be wary of the use of drilling, flash cards or worksheets. Children need activities which are fun and motivating. When children feel that the classroom environment has followed them home, particularly if they are struggling, then they begin to feel pressured and fun games become chores they don’t want to complete.
Addition for 5-6 year olds
If your child is aged 5-6 years then they are learning how to combine two groups together to model addition. Formal number sentences with the addition sign is not introduced until the second year of schooling. At this age children are encouraged to draw pictures to represent maths problems.
Addition for 7-8 year olds
Children aged 7-8 years are using the terms ‘add’, ‘plus’, as well as recognising and using the + sign. They are using concrete materials and are developing their mental strategies. At this age children are ‘counting on’ which is adding from the larger of the two numbers eg 12+ 5 counting “12, 13, 14,15,16,17,18” rather than counting from one. This is a tricky strategy which requires encouragement.
Familiarisation with a number line will help students. At this age children are moving on from counting objects to replacing objects with numerals. They are adding one and two digit numbers together.
Addition for 9-10 year olds
Children who are aged 9-10 are using formal addition algorithms with two and three digit numbers. There is also a focus on using mathematical language to explain the mental strategies used. The new trends in mathematics when using trading is to not use the language of “borrow 1” and “payback” but rather “add tens” and “add ones”.
Addition for 11-12 year olds
Children aged 11-12 are learning to select and use the most appropriate strategy for their mathematical problem. Formal algorithms are being used correctly. Children are able to interpret working mathematically language and can match and algorithm to a maths word problem. Children can add numbers with differing numbers of digits.