Lesson Plan

Adding Three is a Breeze!

Get your students excited about adding by introducing them to word problems with three addends!
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Number Roll pre-lesson.
View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Number Roll pre-lesson.

Math and story time come together in this lesson plan that helps first graders visualize the complicated concept of adding more than two addends in a single equation. By first grade, kids might have mastered the idea of adding one number to another, but some situations call for more than that. Sound tricky? It is, but rolling it into a word problem--and especially one that uses animals for pet-loving kids--helps. For support, kids can use counters and a whiteboard marker (or plain old pen and paper!).

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to add three numbers using objects from a word problem.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments


(5 minutes)
Three Pigs Addition
  • Call students together as a group. Explain that today they will work on adding three numbers.
  • Review with students that when we add, we put two numbers together to find out the combined total value.
  • Briefly review adding 7+6 and 11+5. Review with students the terms sum, or the answer to the addition problem, and addend, or one of the components that is added.
  • Tell students that when we add three numbers we follow the same process as adding two numbers to get a sum.
  • Tell students that today we will practice reading some number stories with three whole numbers.


  • Point below the equations as students repeat after you, "Seven plus six equals thirteen. Eleven plus five equals sixteen."
  • Label the plus sign, equal sign, addends and the sum in the equations.
  • Tell students, "In the equations, sum means the total. Sum is a word for an answer to an addition problem." Explain that this is different from "some" is different from "a little bit." Write, "I want some cookies" on the board, and discuss the different spellings and meanings of sum/some.


  • Tell students to turn and talk to a partner to describe a time they have used addition.
  • Have students turn and talk to a partner to describe the parts of an addition equation in their own words.