How to Teach Addition Without Using Fingers

How many of your students use their fingers to add numbers? I have some basic tips that will guide your students in the right direction to master addition skills so they will not use their fingers to add numbers. Students should master each step before moving on to the next step. The goal is to help students see numbers in a different way which will help them think about the numbers instead of counting on their fingers. 
Here are the steps that will help students become proficient!

First, teach the numbers that make 10. For example: 1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, and 5+5. Students should be able to recognize these pairs of numbers instantly. This will help them later on too. If students know that 3+7=10, then later on they would know that 30+70=100. Plus, our place value system is based on tens. Students need to proficiently know these pairs that make 10. If you need extra practice, try this pack of making 10.  
What Makes 10?
Combinations of 10 Game
Here is a FREE game to learn the combinations or pairs of 10. This is a great game to help memorize the pairs. Just click the picture on the left to download this free game. 
Next, teach adding a 10 to a number. For example; 3+10. This should be done with no thinking. Counting by 10's from any number is essential! They should NOT be counting 10 more on their fingers. This needs to be automatic. They should be able to count by 10's going forward and backwards from any number. Students should also be proficient at counting 1 more and 1 less from any number. Here is a FREE resource to help with adding and subtracting by 1's and 10's.
FREE Add 1s 10s and 100s Free Add 1 More Sub 1 Less

Then, teach adding a 9 to a number. For example: 3+9. If they know how to add 10, they can add a 9 with little thinking. If you add 1 more to the 9 to make a 10, then you would know that 3+10=13. But we need to subtract 1 from 13 because we added the 1 to make a 10. Adding 9 to any number will help exercise the brain moving forward and backwards by 1 on a number line. Most students need help seeing the 9 in the equation. Sometimes they sit and stare at the addition fact with a blank stare until I say, "I see a 9." Then right away they know what to do. It's training the brain to see the 9 and connecting it with a trick they know. If you know how to add 10, then you can add 9 with ease. 

After, teach the doubles. For example: 5+5 or 6+6. Students should know their doubles without thinking. They should not be adding on their fingers a double. These need to be memorized. Doubles come in handy when thinking about other addition facts. Doubles also help when learning multiplication. Know those doubles! They should also recognize the subtraction fact family of a double too. If they know that 6+6=12, then they should begin to recognize that 12-6=6. Students can do a lot when they know their doubles. 

After you teach the doubles, you can work on doubles +1. For example: 6+7. Some people like to call these numbers, neighbors, because they are neighbors or next door to each other on the number line. For this addition fact, you can see 6 and 7 are neighbors on the number line. If you see a neighbor, you take the smallest number, double it, and add 1 more. 

Finally, students should be proficient in adding 2 more or 3 more to a number. They should already know how to add 1 more with ease. Adding another 1 is simple. 

As students become proficient, they will begin learning tricks and seeing numbers differently. Their brain learns to look for combinations and pairs and connecting it with what they know. Then they will begin using a strategy other than their fingers. 

When they get to a fact like 4+7, they may think, "I know that 3+7 is 10, therefore 4+7 must be 11." or they may think, "I know that 4+4 is 8, therefore 3 more make 11." Or they may think, "I know that 4+6=10, then 1 more would make 11." These 3 examples use strategies other than fingers.

The best way to learn these strategies is to practice, practice, and practice. We can't be good at something if we don't practice. Right? 

Teaching to take numbers apart like using Number Bonds and connecting them with what you know is very helpful. I found a YouTube video that explains Number Bonds pretty well.  Click here to watch a video about Number Bonds. 

Here are some fun resources that will help master addition facts and to practice the strategies listed above. 
Addition and Subtraction Fact Drills  Super Power Thinking Games
Addition Task Cards Monster ThemeAddition Dice Games

Here are some more ideas to use when teaching to master facts. All ideas are found on Amazon:
Addition Facts that Stick
Self Correcting Addition Keys
Addition Chart

I hope these tips are helpful in mastering addition facts. 
See you soon,

Click the picture below to find more addition and subtraction resources:  
Addition and Subtraction Resources for the classroom
Stay tuned to my next blog post:
Teacher's Take Out on Bloglovin


  1. Is this a good place to start for kindergarteners?? Or should this be more geared towards first graders?

  2. I think the earlier the better. Start simple with facts of 10.

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