If you’re teaching number bonds and would love a break from worksheets, these engaging, hands-on activities are a must. Solve missing addends with playdough, set up a fun math center with write and wipe cards… there are so many possibilities!
Teaching Number Bonds
Number bond activities help kids build their understanding of the part-part-whole concept, which refers to a whole number being made up of two or more parts.
My favorite way to start teaching part-part-whole is making towers out of unifix cubes or LEGOs. I begin by building a tower in two different colors so that each part can be easily identified (see the picture below). My students and I count how many cubes are in the “whole” tower.
Then I break the tower into the two colors and have the kids count how many cubes are in each part.
I like challenging the kids to find another way to make each number too. For instance, in our example above, we could have used two pinks and three yellows to make five. Or we could have used one pink and four yellows…
Number bonds are a great way to begin teaching the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. I build a tower, take part away and then ask questions like “how many are left?” and “how many more do I need to make…?”
Bubbles Bonds Activity
After putting away our unifix cubes, I was eager to pull out our first number bond activity: bubble bonds! It’s a fun way to investigate how parts work together to make the whole.
I randomly grabbed the number five card first and placed it on the mat. Then I rolled three pink balls out of playdough and laid them in the first bubble. I asked the kids how many bubbles they saw and wrote their answer, three, in the first box.
I said “if I have three bubbles now, how many more do I need to make five?”
The class unanimously agreed I needed two more to make five so I added two yellow playdough balls to the 2nd bubble and wrote 2 in the box below it.
I thought out loud “I can see that the number five is made up of two parts: one part is three and one part is two. So three and two make five all together. Can you think of another way to make five?” .
The kids eagerly worked in pairs and investigated the different number bonds that could be made for each number.
The partners continued solving bubble bonds until they had worked through all of the number cards in their set.
Number Bonds Task Cards
The next day, I pulled out our number bond task cards. They’re a fun way to work out missing parts as kids figure out how many more gumballs are needed to make the whole number.
To prepare, I simply printed, cut apart and laminated the task cards.
Grabbing one card at a time, kids read the whole number at the top and worked out how many more gumballs they needed to make that number.
My students were keen to solve the problems with playdough again but you could easily use buttons, counters or pom poms. In fact, you could turn the cards into a write and wipe activity by asking children to draw the missing gumballs with a dry erase marker instead.
The activities made such motivating math centers!