Math Activities for Preschoolers: Discovering Addition Concepts

When teaching preschoolers about math, visual representations are often helpful. It's one thing to simply explain the concept of addition. But actually seeing the mathematical operation come to life can benefit early learners' understanding of the concepts at hand!

Encourage young learners to dive into discovery of addition concepts with these math activities for preschoolers from HMH’s Math Expressions Early Learning Resources program.

Activity #1: What Do I See at Snack Time?

Each pair of children needs one discussion card

Ask children what they remember about the picture. Possible responses: This is a picture of snack time. We found partners on this picture!


Tell children that today they will find partners again, but they will also look for numbers of snacks to add.

  • Yes, last time, we found partners on the picture. You found that 2 red apple slices and 1 green apple slice are partners of 3. So, 3 has partners of 2 and 1. We can also say this as 2 and 1 make 3.
  • When we say 2 and 1 make 3, it’s called adding. Another word we can use that means the same thing is addition.
  • What adding can you say about these apples? (Point to the plate with 1 red apple slice and 1 green apple slice.) 1 and 1 make 2. 1 red apple slice and 1 green apple slice make 2 apple slices.
  • Let’s all find partners on the picture and say them as adding. Take turns saying the adding and help each other. Help children talk about adding as they look for and find partners on the picture. Then ask pairs to share what they have found.

Activity #2: What Do I See at the Market?

Each pair of children needs one discussion card.

Have children talk about experiences they may have had at their local grocery store or supermarket, and discuss the pictures on the card. 


Help children identify and name each item. Then, ask children to think about how they can use the pictures to find numbers of fruits or vegetables to add.

  • Let’s look at the baskets of broccoli. What adding can you say about these “heads” of broccoli? (Point to the baskets with 2 and 3 heads of broccoli.) Possible responses: 2 and 3 make 5; Here are 2 and here are 3; If we count, we get 5: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Now, look at the different pictures and say the adding you see. With your partner, take turns finding and saying the adding. Be sure to help each other.
  • Provide help to children as they identify different numbers to add. Then, have pairs of children share what they found.

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Learn more about HMH's Math Expressions Early Learning Resources program, which helps children make sense of math by exploring, discussing, and demonstrating their understanding of key concepts.

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