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CRA for Adding Three Addends

I talk a LOT about teaching using the concrete–>representational–>abstract (CRA) sequence of instruction. Since I’m often involved in remediation, I see the results of kiddos who are rushed to the abstract stage too quickly, so that is a big focus of mine.

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I think the best way to illustrate what’s meant by the CRA sequence of instruction is with an example. First grade has been working on addition with 3 addends, and this is an activity I developed for them.

First, students use teddy bear counters (concrete). Place red, blue, and yellow teddy bear counters into a paper bag or other container that is not transparent. Students reach in a grab a handful or two of teddy bear counters. They count and record the number of each color bear, write the number sentence, and find the total of the bears.  

Next, they use ten-frames (representational). For this activity, you should download and print these student ten-frame kits. You might want to copy them on cardstock, cut them apart, and laminate them. Students take three of the ten-frame cards, show the number from each ten-frame by coloring dots on the recording sheet, write the number sentence, and find the total. 

Finally, they use number cubes with the digits (abstract), not dice with pips. For this version, students roll three dice, record the numbers they rolled, write a number sentence, and find the total. Use standard dice (1-6) or ten-sided dice (0-9), depending on your students’ needs. 


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24 Comments

    1. You wrote, “Finally, they use number cubes with the digits (abstract), not dice with pips.”, but the third worksheet has a picture of two dice with dots on it. Perhaps an oversight.

  1. I’d never heard specifically of CRA, but for years I followed the Math Their Way strategy of teaching math and that’s exactly what Math Their Way is all about too. Thanks for the freebies!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. Thank you! I use a lot of your ideas for math. You need to come to Columbus, Ohio to give a workshop! 🙂

  3. For the teddy bear counter activity, do you write in the amount of each bear they should get or do they choose them? I noticed it has 4 color choices. Thanks!

    1. I also noticed there were four colors listed at the top. That’s why I’m reading the comments to see if there is a reason why. Maybe you use three colors (your choice) And leave the forth blank. I might modify it to just put the three colors I want to use because I teach special education and this would/could confuse them.

  4. Thank you for the freebies. I teach Special Ed and the students always need more hands on concrete examples. I haven’t heard of CRA but will look more into it.

  5. Thank you for your post about CRA! In the attached materials, is it possible to replace number “sentence” with number “phrase”? This would parallel how mathematics and language are connected: phrase, “4 plus 5 plus 3,” vs. sentence, “4 plus 5 plus 3 is equal to 12.”

    I appreciate your consideration!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. I think “number sentence” is more commonly used. Actually, I probably should change it to “equation” and have the students using the correct math term!

  6. Thank you. I’m a big believer in CRA, although I didn’t know what to call it! I went to Marilyn Burns week long workshop in Rhode Island many years ago, and have tried to hold true to building a concrete understanding of math skills. What is most frustrating to me is the pacing calendar we are held to. 1 day on this skill, 2 days on that skill, test week is expected to be the same across the district, and scores need to be handed in. I’m always a week or two behind, telling my young colleagues to slow down…take time. Instead, I hear them saying “my kids can’t add” because they are moving too quickly to abstract. I’m on the math committee, but we are faced with the pressure from admin. to get it all done. Heavy sigh.

  7. Do you have anything like this for 4th grade? I teach in Virginia and really need activities to use with my students to help with CRA. Thanks!

    1. Almost every post I write features CRA! You might try using the Search function to find specific topics your looking for.

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