What is counting on?

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SWBAT count on to solve an addition problem.

Big Idea

Students play a mystery game to practice a counting on strategy. This is a great lesson to reach different kinds of learners!

Setting Up the Learning

5 minutes

This lesson follows students having multiple days to solve addition word problems, and listen to each other's strategies. One strategy that they will have heard a lot by this point is counting on! This game allows them to practice counting on in a different way.


Yesterday we saw that a few friends used a counting on strategy. We saw that we could use the counting on strategy anywhere! We don’t need cubes to help us!


We are going to play a game where we try counting on. Counting on is a strategy we can try because it is a strategy we could use anywhere we have a math problem


Your thinking job today is: How can I count on to figure out how many in all?

Opening Discussion

10 minutes

The day before, students solved a story problem with the number sentence 5 + 2 = ____. Before we play the game, I’ll have 2 students share their work from the day before to remind students of the counting on strategy we worked on yesterday. 

I’ll narrate about the problems as I draw them: “This person put out 5 cubes, then they got out 2 more cubes. They counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.”

Partner Talk: How did this person solve the problem?

Now I have another strategy. This person put 5 fingers on one hand and said 5. Then they counted 5, 6, 7 and put up 2 more fingers.

Partner Talk: What did this person do to solve the problem?

Guiding Questions:

  • Why didn’t they count the first group?
  • Why did they say 5, 6, 7? Where did the 6 come from? Why did they stop at 7?
  • Why did they hold up 5 fingers at first? Why did they put up 2 more fingers?
  • How are these 2 strategies different?
  • Which strategy was a little faster? Why was it a little faster? (Emphasize that mathematicans always use efficient strategies)
  • Which strategy could you use at the grocery store? You could definitely count on in your brain! You don’t need cubes for that!

Game Practice

15 minutes

Now we can play a game where we can use counting on to see how many in all. This game will help us practice the strategy we can use when we are problem solving. See independent practice section for a video on materials to use for this game.

Here are our game rules:

  1. Partner 1: Roll the number dice.
  2. Partner 2: Take out that many cubes.
  3. Partner 1: Roll the dots dice.
  4. Partner 2: Take out that many cubes.
  5. Partner 1 and 2, count on to solve.

We will play a few rounds of the game as a class to practice, discussing the guiding questions to help students focus on the math embedded in the game. I’ll also model how to draw what we did on the recording sheet.

Guiding Questions:

  • Did we have to count the first group? Why not?
  • How did we count on to solve?
  • Why did we stop counting there?

Independent Practice

10 minutes

To develop the counting on strategy, I use numbered and dot dice. I explain how and why this is critical in my video

All groups will play the game today. For students who need more practice with counting on, this will give them a different way to practice the material. For students who are solid with the strategy, it will push them to review the strategy outside of the context of a story problem and just with numbers.

Recording Sheet:

  • Students write the number in one box, draw the dots in the other.
  • Students write how many in all.


5 minutes

Today we worked on figuring out if we could count on to solve a problem. Let’s look at one round of the game that I played. I model one dice roll on chart paper, students discuss what they noticed (how the teacher counted on).