Primary Math Games for Missing Addend

Do your kids struggle with finding this missing addend or part part whole?  I love this easy game to help kindergarteners and first graders practice finding the missing part in a fun and engaging way! Feel free to share this blog post with parents as this is a super easy game to play at home to reinforce what you are doing at school!

Materials You Need

My favorite math games are the ones that are no prep!  All you need for Counters in a Cup is exactly that–counters and cups!

Any cups that aren’t clear or see through will work.  I’ve used styrofoam and red Solo cups before and both work great!

The two sided-counters work great for this because they fit easily in the cup.  But any small thing you have in your room will work.  And if you are a parent wanting to play this at home, here are some great things to use…

  • beans
  • buttons
  • legos

Anything small that you can fit 20 or so of them in a cup will work!  I’ll be showing this game with buttons because they are just so fun and cute!

How To Play

To play Counters in a Cup, students need to be in partners (or parent-child, brother-sister if you are at home).

Player 1 puts a set number of counters in the cup.  I usually tell my first graders to put somewhere between 11 and 20 counters in.  They say, “I put ___ counters in the cup.”

Then, player 1 spills out some counters.  Player 1 and/or 2 count the counters that spilled.  Player 1 says, “___ counters spilled out.  How many counters are in my cup?” and covers up the cup.

Player 2 solves the missing addend or part of the story and tells they answer.  Then, Player 1 empties the cup for them to check!

Then, both players record their missing parts!  Here are some examples when I played with my own kiddo!


***Off Topic…kinda…check out that amazing notation from my kindergartner.  I was one proud momma when I asked him to explain how he got 11 so fast and he went to writing out the notation! And, nope, other than help with a few blog posts, we don’t work on this at home.  So BIG shout out to his kindergarten teacher and Arkansas’ push to get kids fluently solving problems and explaining their thinking!!***

Differentiating Counters in a Cup

Another reason I love this game is because it’s easy to differentiate and change up depending on your kiddos!

In first grade, I sometimes assign a certain number between 11 and 20.  Other times, I give different sets of partners a different number.  My low babies work on numbers below 10.  And my higher math thinkers work on more than 20 counters in their cup.

During my long-term sub job in kinder, we used this same game to help build missing parts and making combinations of a number.  For example, when we were working on ways to make 10, everyone used only 10 counters in their cup and spilled a different combination of 10 each time.

The kinder team I worked with played a similar game and used colored bears and called in Bears in a Cave!  Same game with a different name!

You can find the plans for this game, how I use it in my classroom, and the recording sheet with my Guided Math Workshop Plans!


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