A look into Adding Integers with the Help of Zero Pairs!

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SWBAT add integers using colored counters and zero pairs.

Big Idea

Student will use colored counters to model addition of integers.

Opening Video

1 minutes

Bell Ringer

10 minutes

bell ringer: As students walk into the room, they will be handed their Bell Ringer for the day.  The students will work in pairs to complete the bell ringer.  During the bell ringer, encourage the students to discuss how they are solving each equation.  This will lead the students to critique one another’s reasoning. The bell ringer itself will lend to MP 1,2,3,4,5,and 6) Allow the students to work on the bell ringer for approximately 10 minutes.  

Discussion/Student Work Sharing

10 minutes

Discuss and Share: Once your students complete the bell ringer, take a few minutes to discuss their findings.  Discuss the mathematical processes they used.  Have students discuss their strategies.  The bell ringer does not give the students specific direction on how to use the two colored counter chips.  It will be interesting to see how students use the counters to model the problem.  Many students with a strong background on negative and positive numbers will be able to solve the equation, however struggle modeling the problem with the counters using zero pairs.  If students are unaware of pairing a negative and a positive number together to get a sum of zero, then they will struggle with this.  However, this is a great teachable opportunity to introduce zero pairs to those who do not know this concept. 

Online Interactive Student Practice

20 minutes

Student Instructional Practice: Please refer to this video for the use of videos, and online interactive games as an instructional practice.

If you have access to a class set of ipads, laptops, or desktops you may want to have your students log onto the glenco.com site individually and work through the practice problems.  If you have access to a smartboard, you may also want to do the student practice as a whole group, calling volunteers to work out the practice problems.  As students explore the site, students will have a great time investigating on their own the usage of zero pairs and how this will allow them to calculate the sum of integers. 

If you opt to use this site for individual students you will want to walk the room checking for understanding.  Are the students able to identify how many positives to use?  Are the students able to identify how many negatives to use?  Are students able to understand when a negative chip and positive chip are grouped they become a zero pair which is equivalent to zero?  Are the students able to understand why the zero pairs are taken out, what does this mean quantitatively? 

When I use this site, I use this site as a whole group.  The only thing that I tell my students is, “Your goal is to add integers using colored counters.” I will have some students who tackle this with no problem, some students are unclear of the relationship between one positive and one negative, and some students find it difficult to understand why you will take out the zero pairs once they are grouped.  I allow them to investigate the site.  I allow the students to play with the site and figure out how to solve the problems on their own.  They will make mistakes.  Students will begin to discuss with one another how to solve the problems, and how to use the site effectively to solve the problems.  Students will begin to understand that when a negative and a positive are grouped together, the end result is zero.  With the sum being zero, it has no value, thus being able to be taken away. This site lends itself to several mathematical practices. (MP1, MP2, MP3, MP4, MP5, and MP6.)


I would allow my students to explore the site for approximately 15 - 20 minutes.  During their time of exploration you may take the opportunity to formatively assess if students understand which color represents positive and which represents a negative, what a zero pair is, how to group and model a zero pair, how to model a zero pair without using colored counters, (i.e a positive or negative symbol), how to use colored counters when solving an addition equation, and how zero pairs affect the sum. 

In closing of this section, gather the whole group together and summarize their expierence. In this time, think of the objective of the lesson.  Did the students reach the learning target?  Are they able to identify zero pairs?  Are they able to use the chips to model addition of integers?  Are they able to find the correct sum using zero pairs and explain why taking the zero pairs away will help them find the correct sum?

Adding Integers using colored counters online practice

Exit Ticket

10 minutes


After students complete the student practice, hand out the Exit ticket for the day.  Students will work on the exit tickets as individuals.  This will help with the lesson on subtracting integers using zero pairs.  One common mistake students will make when using the zero pair strategy to subtract integers is using the same method in adding integers with zero pairs.  The subtracting integer lesson using zero pairs calls for the students to derive a strategy on their own first.  Their knowledge of zero pairs will give them a great starting point.  This exit ticket will allow you to formatively assess who you may need to pull aside in a small group to help with thier starting point for the next lesson.  I allow my students 10 minutes for this exit ticket because there are three sections to complete.