Lesson plan

Act it Out!

Connect addition with real-world problem solving as students analyze and solve story problems.
Need extra help for EL students? Try theMaking Story ProblemsPre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try theMaking Story ProblemsPre-lesson.

Students will be able to represent and solve addition word problems with drawings and through acting.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
How Many Ears?How Many Feet?How Many Noses?
  • Tell a quick addition story problem to your class. For example, "There are 4 cats and 4 dogs playing on the farm. How many tails are there altogether?"
  • Ask your students how they could figure out the answer to this problem.
  • Have students share details about this problem (such as "each animal has one tail" or "altogether means addition") that can help inform the strategy they can use to solve it.
(5 minutes)
  • Explain that your example is called a Story problem, which asks a question about numbers using a story.
  • Invite four student volunteers to the front of the room to act as the cats and four volunteers to act as the dogs. Have them freeze in action.
  • Walk next to each of the volunteers and gently tap them on the head while counting aloud, encouraging the class to count along with you.
  • When you finish counting, ask your students how you can double-check to make sure you got the right answer.
  • Invite a student to double-check your work by recounting the volunteers.
  • Record the problem on the board as a drawing and an equation, reminding your students how an equation works by relating each part to the corresponding piece in the story problem.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that your class will now get to act out another story problem, which they'll solve independently.
  • Tell another story problem. For example: "There are four cows grazing at the farm. How many eyes are there altogether?"
  • Ask your students what they notice about this problem. How many eyes does each cow have?
  • Invite volunteers to act out the scene and select a student to solve the problem. Model counting along aloud and keeping track as necessary.
  • Pass out paper to your class, and encourage everyone to figure out the number of eyes total using drawings.
  • Ask students to hold up their work and go over it as a class.
  • Highlight how you could add using the groups of two (eyes) for each animal, using repeated addition. Explain why you would use groups of two to your students.
  • Demonstrate how you could also write an equation for this problem: 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8.
(15 minutes)
  • Hand out a copy of the How Many Ears? worksheet to each student.
  • Support students as needed to complete the worksheet.


  • Provide students with maths counters to use while completing the worksheet in order to visualize each problem.


  • Have students figure out how many eyes are in their family using drawings and writing an equation.
(5 minutes)
  • Assess your students’ understanding by collecting the worksheets and determining if students were able to correctly solve each problem using drawings.
(5 minutes)
  • Go over the worksheet problems with the class and invite a few students to share their work.
  • Highlight the strategies that students used to solve each problem and demonstrate how you could also use an equation to solve each problem.

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