Grade Levels: 3-5, K-3

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 1-5, students use BrainPOP resources (including a free online interactive game) to practice combining numbers to create target amounts. Students will apply a variety of mental math strategies as they add during online game play, as well as in a hands-on addition game they create with a partner.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Use mental math strategies to add numbers fluently during online game play.
  2. Work collaboratively to create a hands-on game for practicing addition and mental math.


  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP


This lesson plan uses a free game called Addition Blocks. The game is useful for providing practice with addition facts, but does not explicitly teach addition, so make sure students have already had some practice with mental math strategies prior to playing the game.

Before introducing the game to your students, preview it yourself by diving right into game play, or click on "How to Play" for directions. You can easily differentiate the game for students by instructing them to click "Options" and then select a specific speed and level of difficulty. We recommend the following:

1st - 3rd grade Speed: Slow; Difficulty: Easy
3rd - 4th Grade: Speed: Normal; Difficulty: Easy
4th - 5th Grade: Speed: Slow; Difficulty: Normal
5th Grade + up: Speed: Normal; Difficulty: Normal

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Play the Basic Adding Movie from BrainPOP Jr. to help students make connections to prior knowledge.
  2. Project the Addition Blocks game for the class to see. Show students how to set the speed and difficulty level by clicking on "Options," and then demonstrate game play.
  3. Model how to play the game. Use think-aloud strategies to show students how you use mental math during game play. You might also want to have a few student volunteers play and share their thinking, as well.
  4. Provide 10-15 minutes for students to explore the game on their own or with a partner.
  5. Lead students in a whole-class discussion about the mental math strategies they used during game play. Was it easier to combine two numbers or more than two numbers to create the target number? Why? Which combinations were the easiest to add, and which were the hardest? Show the Doubles Movie if needed to build student understanding of this mental math strategy.
  6. Explain that students will now practice mental math strategies for addition by creating and playing a hands-on game with a partner. Pass out 25-50 blank index cards to each pair of students, or give students construction paper and have them create cards by folding and cutting the paper into equal sized squares. Instruct students to write one digit numbers on the cards. Younger students may want to write only digits from 1-6.
  7. Encourage students to work with their partner to create an addition game using their cards. They can spread their cards in an array like in the Addition Block game, then take turns selecting a target number for their partner to make with cards. Or, they can create their own original concept for a game. Provide at least 10 minutes for students to plan and practice playing their games,
  8. Allow students to revisit the Addition Blocks game as well as their original games throughout the school year to build fluency with addition facts.You might also want to pair students up with different partners and allow them to teach one another their games. Encourage students to talk about their mental math strategies together.