Drumming Out Addends

Amanda Pitts

Lesson Goals

Children will be able to add or subtract to find an unknown number.
Children will learn to use classroom instruments in a group setting, to a certain number count.

Using the number drummer method, children will use instruments to not only find a sweet beat, but also a missing addend!


Example class size of 18, add more of each for larger class sizes.
1 Large dry erase board
1 Dry erase markers
6 Small dry erase boards
6 Dry erase markers
1 Large classroom
6 Rubbermaid trash cans
6 PVC pipe sticks
6 Metal lids
6 Drum sticks
6 Small wooden boxes
6 Small PVC pipe sticks


1. Begin by writing a three-number math equation with an unknown number on the board. Example: 3+_=5
2. Tell children we will be using instruments and music to discover the unknown number that is represented by the blank on the board.
3. Put 1 trash can and PVC pipe on table in front of teacher.
4. Teacher says, “Count each beat as I drum.”
5. Teacher hits drum 3 times, while children count 1-2-3.
6. Teacher says “Now count on until we get to 5, using your fingers to see how many more times I hit the drum.
7. Teacher drums while children count 4-5, holding up 1 then 2 fingers.
8. Teacher says, “How many more times did I have to hit the drum to get to 5?” Children say “2.”
9. Do 3 more examples, subtraction, addition, subtraction (respectively.)
10. Teacher says, “Now I will put you into groups of 3. We will alternate our group roles. 1 person will be the first number and beat that many times, 1 person will be the missing number that is unknown and will beat that many more. 1 person will use their hands to count how many more beats were needed. We will all put both numbers together at the end with a beat to make sure our answer is correct.”
11. Put children into groups of 3. 1 person will receive a trash can and PVC pipe, 1 person will receive a metal lid and a drumstick and 1 person will receive a small wooden box and small PVC pipe.
12. Write equation on the board with unknown. Have children kid talk and decide who will be number 1, number needed more and counter.
13. Children will drum out equation until answer of unknown number is reached.
14. Have whole class do problem together with instruments after writing the answer on board to decide if answer is correct. (Make sure children are counting while drumming.)
15. Repeat 8-9 more equations until understanding is reached, alternating kids responsibility in group.
16. If children are struggling, stop and repeat an equation together as a whole group.
17. Pass out 1 small dry erase board and marker to each group of 3.
18. Tell each group to come up with a missing addend equation on their white board.
19. Have each group switch to a different table and then use their instruments to find out the new groups equation. Have them write the answer on the white board.
20. Have children use instruments to complete equation one group at a time in whole group setting.
21. Review as whole group for one equation.
22. Complete assessment.

Differentiation Approaches

To differentiate for high flyers, they will have a larger numbered equation to find out the missing addend. During the assessment piece, high flyers can also do a solo informance to express knowledge and understanding.

For children who struggle, a picture could be drawn on the board underneath the equation to give a visual representation of what they will “drumming.” Smaller unknown numbers and equations can also be used to give a less difficult challenge.


Formative Observation during lesson.

At the end of the lesson, groups of three will do a mini-informance where teacher puts a three-number equation on large white board and group will use instruments to find missing addend within their group. After the teacher-given equation, children will come up with their own equation to “drum out” and audience will try to decide what the equation was.

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

This lesson could also be used in visual arts by representing the drumming with a painting or a 3D sculpture. 1.V.3.3 directly correlates to the idea of making a 3D model of an equation to help find the unknown number. This lesson helps for future arts integrated lessons by giving the children the ability to use the drumming method in their math thoughts.

Additional Details

  • Grade Level: First
  • Arts Content Area: Music
  • Non-Arts Content Area: Math
‹ Back to Search Results