2-3 Digit Addition Strategies

Transitioning your students from basic addition to 2-3-digit addition can be tough sometimes! There are a few different 2-3 digit addition strategies I focus on in my classroom.

While I do teach the standard algorithm (vertical), these strategies do not focus it.

In this post, you’ll see examples and activities from this addition strategies resource, but you can implement these strategies with just paper and pencil!

Also, if you want an even CLOSER look at addition strategies, you can join my FREE email series to learn about number talks, writing mini-lessons, and teaching students to record their mathematical thinking. Join here!

Many of these strategies are for two-digit addition AND three-digit addition. I prefer to start with two-digit addition in my classroom and then apply them to three-digit addition.

A Quick Note Before You Teach 2-3 Digit Addition Strategies

One of the key factors in teaching students various 2-digit and 3-digit addition strategies is to help them DISCOVER these strategies. That means YOU as the teacher are participating more as a facilitator.

I know what you’re thinking… will my students really be able to come up with these strategies on their own? YES! It’s all about strategically guiding and helping them use and apply what they already know!

Addition Strategy #1: Hundreds Chart

First, if you’re starting two-digit addition, chances are your students have had a decent amount of exposure to a hundreds chart. I LOVE using this to start addition strategies.

Begin by using a large hundreds chart on the easel or interactive whiteboard. Write down a two-digit addition problem and ask students how they can solve it using the hundreds chart.

How does this strategy work? Students circle, color, or highlight the biggest number. Then, they jump down to add the tens, and then they can add the ones.

Addition Strategy #2: Base 10 Blocks

In this strategy, students use base ten blocks to add both numbers. Some students may need to use the physical blocks, while others may need to simply draw the blocks.

You may have some students that need to continue working with base ten blocks and are not ready to move to more abstract strategies. That’s okay! They’ll get there eventually.

For students that are ready, for more abstract strategies, keep reading!

Addition Strategy #3: Break Apart

In this third strategy, students break apart the numbers into hundreds, tens, and ones to add. First I put a problem on the board and have students solve it in their heads. When they share, I listen very carefully and write how they solved it.

Many times students don’t quite know how to record their thinking, so that’s what you as the teacher are doing as you facilitate sharing addition strategies.

As you can see in the picture below, there are a couple of different ways your students might share how they break apart numbers to solve.

Example of break apart number strategy three different ways

In the first and third strategies, both numbers are broken apart by place values. If you look at the second strategy, only the smaller number was broken apart so the student could count on from the bigger number.

Addition Strategy #4: Number Line

Next up is the number line strategy. This addition strategy is VERY similar to the break apart strategy. The only difference is that you’re recording the work on a number line.

Students can do this in a variety of ways. Many times the most efficient way to use a number line is by starting at the biggest number and making jumps of hundreds, tens, and ones to count on the smaller number.

Addition Strategy Friends

Throughout this post, I’ve shown you some of my favorite strategies, and as students learn these strategies, I pull out these posters as a reference. We lovingly refer to them as the ADDITION STRATEGY SQUAD!

Finally, while you can of course teach these two-digit and three-digit addition strategies without these strategy people, I have tons of centers, posters, and printable practice pages you can use in your lessons if you need resources! Plus, I’ve included a Google Slides version, too!

Hoping to find more examples about teaching 2-3 digit addition strategies? You can learn more in this post!

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