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A Fun “Mental Math” Addition Game for Summer (or Anytime)

Summer is a great time to practice improving “mental math” skills through games. The "Counting On" game is a great activity that uses visual, auditory, and hands-on techniques to help your child instantly solve addition within the numbers 1-10. This falls neatly in line with Common Core State Standards, and can be played indoors or outdoors, rain or shine!

The “Counting On” strategy helps a young child count forward from an existing number to arrive at solutions faster. Often, when young students are asked to solve a problem, they go back and start at “one. “ For example, if asked “What is 5 + 3?” a child will put up five fingers on one hand, three on the other, and count from one to five then six, seven, and eight, and say “eight” to answer the question. The “Counting On” game teaches a child to start from a specific number, and “count on” for a solution.

Tools needed:

  • A few large, sturdy paper or plastic cups, a dark permanent marker, and 10 pennies.

To play:

  • Take one cup. With the permanent marker, write the number 3 on the outside of the cup.
  • Ask your child to drop three of the pennies into the cup. Then ask “How many are in the cup?” He’ll say three.
  • Have him close his eyes. Then you say, “We know there are three pennies in the cup, now listen while I add more.”
  • Slowly drop two more pennies into the cup. Then ask, “How many pennies are in the cup now?” If he says there are five, say, “That’s right: 3 + 2 = 5.”
  • Take out the two pennies that were added, so you’re back to three pennies in the cup.
  • Have him listen again as you drop different additions to “3.” For example, as he listens, drop four more pennies to make a total of seven.
  • You can write on other cups, to start with different base numbers.
  • When your child can easily “count on” different combinations of 10, increase the difficulty to totals of 15 pennies, then 20.


The faster young students can use “mental math” to solve addition problems, the better they will understand good problem-solving strategies. Check back next week for an easy “mental math” subtraction activity!


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#1 Faith Based Soical Site 2013-06-16 01:50
Great.. I may try this with my kids. I have four boys and with summertime I will be using all the activities I can find to keep them busy. Thanks

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