This lesson plan is part of the “I’ve Been Workin’ On the Railroad” Train Unit Study and is designed to work with Kindergarten through 2nd grade on basic math skills. It is an easy math concepts lesson plan for Kindergarten, first, and possibly second graders, using trains to visualize addition and subtraction.
Time and Grade:
This lesson plan can be used with Kindergarten through 2nd Grade and will take about ten to fifteen minutes.
The intent of this lesson plan is to show children in a visual way the mathematical concepts of addition and subtraction. The behavioral goal of this lesson plan is for the students to be able to add and subtract correctly through the lesson.
• Prerequisite knowledge of the song “I’ve Been Workin’ On the Railroad” and the ability to count numerically are required for this addition and subtraction lesson plan.
• Cardboard or construction paper cut outs of a train engine and train cars. These can be train cars the students decorated during art time in a previous lesson or manipulatives the teacher creates ahead of time. Each train car should have one side with a number on it and one side blank.
• A chalkboard and chalk or white board and dry erase markers.
• A means to secure the train engine and cars to a bulletin board or chalkboard (pins or tape).
Train Math Lesson Method
1. Pin or tape five train cars to the bulletin board, including the engine. Have the children count aloud how many cars make up the train as you point to each one.
2. Now say, “When we stop at our first stop on “Mathematics Train” two more cars join the train”. Have two children come and add cars to the train. It is helpful if the numbers show this first time so the train cars are lined up sequentially, displaying numbers one through seven.
3. Have the children count how many cars are on the train now. Say “That’s right! Seven cars on our train! Five plus two equals seven.”
4. Write the mathematical equation on the chalkboard or white board so the kids can see that 5 + 2 = 7 is the same as five train cars plus two more train cars makes seven train cars.
5. Continue having each child come and either add or take away train cars depending on that particular train station, and reinforce the visual of the train cars with the numeric equation on the board each time. It is suggested to keep the numbers under ten for Kindergarten age children until the concept is thoroughly grasped.
Were all the children able to count the full number of train cars as each stop added or took some away? Did they understand how the numbers on the board symbolized the train car?
Suggested Follow Up Lessons:
This lesson can become more detailed by increasing the number of train cars to 20 or more depending on the number of students. The teacher can also increase the difficulty by flipping the train cars to the blank side so the numbers do not show and children are forced to count without numeric cues.
Another follow up for future math lessons is to have the teacher say at step two, “When we leave this train station, there will be seven train cars. How many train cars did we add at this station?” forcing the children to do the math in their heads, introducing word problems. Once the students give an answer, they can add the visual cue by placing the correct number of train cars on the bulletin board.