Strategies for Addition and Subtraction That Kids Can Learn on Their Own

More or Less: Learn Addition and Subtraction offers a fun, intuitive, and memorable way to learn math concepts.

More or Less: Learn Addition and Subtraction offers a fun, intuitive, and memorable way to learn math concepts.

Whenever I watched my three-year-old Noah playing with addition and subtraction games on the iPad, I always feel very fortunate. He’s always watching his older brother play the same games, but I never expected that he would be learning as well.

If you’re in the process of helping your kids understand addition and subtraction, I have the perfect app for you. It’s called More or Less: Learn Addition and Subtraction. Inspired by Montessori methods, the app offers new strategies for addition and subtraction that kids can learn on their own.

The Basic Strategy

More or Less has six types of game modes: three for learning addition and three for subtraction. There are three difficulty levels for each operation, as indicated by the chicken icons on the top right corner of the screen. As kids move from chick to hen, and eventually to rooster, they’re learning new strategies that will help them understand these basic math operations.

The first game mode is like a simple calculator, where you drag any two numbers to add them together. For example, you can drag the numbers 1 and 2 to make 3. The operands are limited to integers under 10. So, you can ask the game to calculate ‘0 + 0’ and ‘9 + 9’ for you.

What makes this game mode a good strategy for learning addition is how the game uses beads to represent each operand. In the previous example, the app will show one bead to represent the number 1 and two beads to represent the number 2. It will then move these beads to the result area to get three beads. This helps kids understand that addition means collecting all the beads in a single bucket, and counting the number of beads in that bucket.

If you switch to subtraction mode, you can also drag any two numbers to subtract them. The game will detect if you’re trying to subtract a smaller number with a bigger number, and switch their places such that the bigger number is always on the left-hand side of the operand. This is another interesting approach to teach kids about which numbers are bigger than the others, while keeping the game simple and focused.

Again, the game uses beads to represent each operand. But this time, the beads under the subtrahend will turn into Pac-Man and try to eat the frightened beads under the minuend. This fun animation helps kids understand how subtraction works. When the dust clears, all the remaining beads will be moved to the right hand side and counted.

DIY in Slow Motion

If the first game mode focuses on using the app as a calculator, the second game mode forces you to perform the calculation on your own. In the addition operation, the game will generate two operands at random and the same number of beads. You will need to tap on each bead in order to come up with the final result.

As you tap on each bead, the game will move it to the right-hand side and count it aloud. When you’re finished, all the beads in two different colors will gather on the right-hand side to represent the final result. Then, you’ll need to drag the correct number from the bottom toolbar. For example, if ‘7 + 3 = 10’, then you need to drag the digits 1 and 0 to form the number 10.

In the subtraction operation, the game will encourage you to tap on the beads underneath the subtrahend. If you do, they will turn into Pac-Man shapes and try to consume the beads underneath the minuend. Once all the Pac-Man beads have been cleared, you can tap on the remaining shapes underneath the minuend. Similar to the addition operation, you need to drag the digits that represent the final result.

More or Less: Learn Addition and Subtraction uses beads -- inspired by Montessori methods -- to represent the numbers and move them around to represent the operation.

More or Less: Learn Addition and Subtraction uses beads -- inspired by Montessori methods -- to represent the numbers and move them around to represent the operation.

Identify the Missing Number

If your kids can master the first two difficulty levels, it’s time for them to play with the rooster level. In this level, the game challenges you to identify the missing number that will complete the equation. For example, ’10 + ? = 11’.

In the addition operation, you need to drag each bead under the result to the bucket under the identified operand. Once that bucket has been filled with the correct number of beads, the next bucket will open up. This bucket represents the missing number in the operation. Once all the beads have been placed in their respective buckets, drag the digits to represent the missing operand.

In the subtraction operand, the starting beads are located under the biggest operand — the subtrahend. Your first task is to move the beads under the result bucket. For example, in the ’10 - ? = 7’ scenario, you need to move beads from the ’10’ bucket to the ‘7’ bucket until it contains the correct number of beads. Your next task is to move the remaining beads into the minuend bucket — the one that will turn into Pac-Man shapes. Then, you need to drag the digits to represent the missing minuend.

When working with missing operands, the game offers step-by-step guidance to help kids understand the concept behind the operation.

When working with missing operands, the game offers step-by-step guidance to help kids understand the concept behind the operation.

Parents Need to Know

More or Less is designed for kids ages 6+, but I believe kids ages 4+ can already comprehend the strategies offered in the app. These strategies were inspired by the Montessori method of teaching math operations. You can see how the game uses beads to represent the numbers, and how the beads would turn into strings when they reach a group of 10.

This app works great without an Internet connection. It has no third-party advertising, in-app purchases, or links to social networks. If you like the app and want to try playing it using real wooden blocks, you might want to buy a set of 10 wooden digits compatible with this and other apps from Marbotic. These toys are meant to be an input method, and you can use them to replace the digits toolbar in the app. Combining the iPad’s digital interface with these tangible toys help create a great learning experience.

One of the most fun and memorable experience in this app is turning beads into Pac-Man shapes to solve the missing minuend in the subtraction operation.

One of the most fun and memorable experience in this app is turning beads into Pac-Man shapes to solve the missing minuend in the subtraction operation.

Things I Like

I truly enjoy how the app uses Pac-Man shapes to illustrate how subtraction works. I think it’s fun, intuitive, and easy to remember. When your kids transition to the rooster level, they will remember how these Pac-Man shapes work and giggle as they convert some of the beads into Pac-Man beads.

One of the great features that I like about Marbotic apps is how they support many languages. More or Less supports 11 languages, including British English and Spanish. My kids really enjoy learning to count and perform basic math operations in Spanish.

Conclusion

More or Less is a fun way to learn the concepts of addition and subtraction. Even though the app is designed for kids ages 6+, I believe the methods used in this app are intuitive enough for younger kids to learn as well. I highly recommend giving this app a try if your kids are currently learning how to add and subtract. The gameplay is fun, intuitive, and memorable.

Get More or Less: Learn Addition and Subtraction on the App Store: iPad

App was provided for our honest review.

About Marbotics

Marbotic is an app publisher based in France that focuses on creating educational apps for kids. Their works are mostly inspired by Montessori philosophy of education, as you can see in More or Less. They are aiming to design an innovative way to blend sensory materials — such as their connected wooden toy digits — with the digital interfaces of the iPad. You should definitely check out their other apps, including this one that I really like:

Up to 100 allows kids to learn how to count to 100 in nine different languages. It has helped my kids to learn counting in Spanish. Even if you’re sticking with the English language, the app is a great way to learn about skip counting or counting by ten.

Link: App Store | Our Review