Learn How to Add: Step-by-Step Addition Lesson

Not only is addition used all the time in day-to-day life, but a lot of the math you'll learn later builds from addition. Because of this, mastering basic addition is an important step to becoming successful in school. Read on for instructions on how to add.

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Learning to Add

Adding Is Counting

How many fingers do you have on your left hand? How many on your right? Now how many altogether? If your answer is ten, then you know how to add! In fact, you can solve many addition problems simply by counting.

Whenever you see an addition problem, picture the larger of the two numbers and then count up. For instance, in the problem 4 + 8, you would start with eight, because that's the larger number, and then count up four places to get 12, so that's the answer. This strategy works for any addition problem. For example, 7 + 12 = 19, because when you count up seven numbers from 12, you reach 19. You can think of the first number in your head and then use your fingers to count up to the second number.

Real-Life Addition

You have probably been doing addition before you even started school. For instance, if you have a friend over to play, and you are both hungry, how many snacks do you need to get from the kitchen? Two, because 1 (your friend) + 1 (you) = 2. Addition is all about putting numbers together.

If you have three red apples and two green apples, how many apples do you have altogether? The answer is five. If your mom has one car and your dad has a car and a truck, how many vehicles are there? To answer this question, all you have to do is add: 1 + 2 = 3. Here are some real-life examples for you to practice with:

  1. How many bikes are there total if there is one blue bike and three orange bikes?
  2. How much fruit is there in a basket if there are four pears and five bananas?
  3. If there were six monkeys and three cats in your room, how many animals would there be total?
  4. On vacation, you visited nine towns and one city. How many places did you visit in all?
  5. Mike has three brothers and three sisters. How many siblings does he have?


  1. 1 + 3 = 4
  2. 4 + 5 = 9
  3. 6 + 3 = 9
  4. 9 + 1 = 10
  5. 3 + 3 = 6

Practice with Pencils

Before moving on to larger numbers, practice adding numbers under ten. You can practice adding with a box of pencils. Make a pile of ten pencils. Now break the pile in two. How many pencils are there in each pile? After you count them, you'll know that 5 + 5 = 10.

You can do this again and again to see how many different combinations of numbers equal ten. These combinations are addition problems. Here are some examples of the addition problems you can create by breaking your ten pencils into two groups: 9 + 1 = 10, 7 + 3 = 10, 6 + 4 = 10 and 10 + 0 = 10.

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