The Drama of Addition Strategies

Annie Burke

Lesson Goals

By the end of this lesson the children will have created, in pairs, a play script about how to use different strategies to add a pair of two digit numbers. They will also use mathematically specific language to support their writing.

A lesson that incorporates drama and playwriting in order to explain why addition strategies work. The children will have had previous experience of addition strategies and are move moving on to explaining their workings out using mathematically specific language that gives simple step by step instructions.


Examples of simple scripts
Large pieces of construction paper that have a variety of different strategies for addition written on them
Proof drawing
Expanded number line


Begin the lesson with a drama warm-up activity called, ‘Communication Circle’. Ask the class to sit in a circle on their chairs. One volunteer is to stand in the middle of the circle. The goal of the game is for the children sitting in the circle to swap with one another child who is sitting opposite them. The aim of the game for the volunteer in the center of the circle is to grab an empty seat. The catch is that the children in the outside circle are only allowed to communicate using their eyes; no voice, hands or facial gestures. The person left without their seat must now stand in the center, similar to musical chairs.

Introduce the lesson by asking the children to walk the classroom and go on a ‘Math Walk’ to have a look at the different strategies that have been placed around the room. As the children walk the room ask them some key questions, “What do you notice about each poster?”, “Which one stands out to you the most?”, “Why?”, “Which one is your favorite?”, “Why?”, “Which one is the most challenging?”, “Why?:, “Have these problems been answered correctly?” Now ask the children to choose the strategy that makes the most sense to them. Ask them to pair up. Support this pairing activity if there are odd numbers. The children will now discuss with their partner what they notice about the math strategies, fixing any problems that have been noticed. Provide the children with additional pencils and paper if they need to correct any intentional teacher mistakes.
Using their paper and pencils, encourage the children to free write about the math problems, thinking about the steps that have been taken. Once completed share 1 or 2 of these. While the children talk their problem out loud begin to write down the key vocabulary. What words do they notice are important? As they read their free writing out, ask the audience if it makes sense. Are there any parts that have been omitted? Why is it important to include each step? Why are these words so important for the meaning?

Ask the children to create a 1, 2, sheet. On this they write 1 on the first line, then they skip a line and write 2 and then skip a line and write 1 again. Repeat this until the whole page has been filled in. Tell them that they are going to write some dialogue between two children who are working out an addition strategy. They can choose any strategy that is on the classroom wall to write about. Give the children the opening line, “Did you see that addition problem on the board?” The dialogue between the two students should explain how they worked it out. Model for them what this might look like. Use the classroom interactive whiteboard to show this.

Give them a limited amount of time to write their dialogue. Once the time is up, ask them to practice their dialogue together first, then with another pair and then they can share it with the class. Give them additional time if necessary to complete before sharing as a whole class.

Return to whole class teaching and recap on the key vocabulary needed to explain addition. Also revisit the need for step by step instructions. Imagining that you are an alien who has never had experience of addition before, would it make sense to them? What are the glows (the elements that worked well) and the grows (elements that could be changed for greater effect)?

Differentiation Approaches

1. Assessment of the children’s ability to add using the different strategies must be fully completed before you group for this lesson. Grouping can either be in mixed ability or socially dependent on the class.
2. For children who have had challenges grasping the concept of addition strategies, the teacher can choose one strategy that they know the children have been successful at in previous lessons.
3. In order to support those children who struggle when generating writing and ideas, have a set of mathematical concept words and time connectives available. Also provide for them the 1, 2 format as a scaffold for their writing.
4. Children who are capable and need extension should be working on more complicated mathematical addition word problems. These could be 2 step number operations.


Assessment for this lesson occurs in a variety of different ways. First of all the children’s achievement of the standards can be assessed through the teacher’s observations of how the children notice the different addition strategies. Do they spot the teacher mistakes that have been made? What do they do once they spot them? Are using their note paper to rewrite them? If not support will be needed. This support can either be in a small group setting or through mixed ability groupings.

Next the children’s understanding of how dialogue is used in a story. Are the children using the dialogue in an appropriate way? Have they included words for effect? Have they tried to make it humorous? It would also be appropriate to observe how the children are able to share the dialogue and assess if they were able to take turns and write their play script in the 1, 2 format or has one member decided to sit back and let the others carry out the work or has one person taken over and created the dialogue independently.

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

This mathematical standard is used throughout the year to support addition & subtraction strategies and word problems. It can be revisited each time a new concept has been learned. The children can develop the scripts fully into bigger productions where they can develop the characters, setting and problem. Children can also move on to experimenting with intonation and actions. This can also be used to explain quotations marks in narrative writing.

Additional Details

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