Solving Addition and Subtraction Stories in Kindergarten

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.
I visited with Mrs. Bryan’s Kindergarten class today, and they were working on writing addition and subtraction story problems.  Mrs. Bryan modeled how to use manipulatives (animals, bugs, teddy bears) and a story mat to create a story problem.  A couple of great math concepts I heard Mrs. Bryan and the kiddos discussing:
  1. Addition and subtraction are related!  Kiddos were encouraged to explore both addition and subtraction stories with their story mats.
  2. Equations can be written different ways!  Notice her example on the white board.  Don’t think Kindergarten kids can get this concept?  I actually heard one student say, “The total can go before the equal sign, too.”  Um.  Wow.
Story problem mini-lesson (invented spelling courtesy of the kiddos!).
Notice how Mrs. Bryan is showing the kids more than one way to
write the equation (2 + 1 = 3 and 3 = 1 + 2).
Students use a story mat and fun manipulatives to write story problems.
This story mat shows a bedroom.
How many bugs in both backpacks?
I always see something cool in Mrs. Bryan’s class.  Here, she used
linking chains to model numbers from 11 to 19.


Are your kiddos exploring numbers from 11 to 19 right now?  Try my Common Core Kindergarten Numbers from 11 to 19 unit.


  1. Mrs. M

    Great ideas! I love the linking chain activity.

  2. Amy B

    Any idea as to where she found the story mats she used? Thinking ahead…just in case! 🙂
    Amy Burton

    • Donna Boucher

      I actually don’t know where she found them. If I find out, I’ll post it.

  3. Amy B

    Thanks Donna!

  4. D Hamilton

    Excellent math instruction but very poor attention to detail in her English spelling. The whole package is important, not just the subject you might be focusing on at the moment.

    • T

      It’s clearly says “inventive spelling courtesy of the students.”

  5. Angie

    Love this! I would love to know where the story mats came from also.

    • Donna Boucher

      Hmmm, not totally sure on that one, Angie.

  6. Marlene

    Sorry to point this out but can you use a pic with correct spelling. I shared this and someone pointed it out to me. I shared it because I love the concept of Problem solving in kinder!

    • Marlene

      Nevermind… I just saw it was invented spelling! Sorry!


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