Teaching Part Part Whole (Number Bonds) in First Grade

If your first grader is struggling with number bonds and grasping part part whole in math, you’re not alone.  I struggled with figuring out how to teach it for two days, until I realized what the problem was.  My first grader didn’t even grasp the true difference between “part” and “whole”, let alone how to apply the concept to numbers.  So we went back to the basics.  Below are the steps we used to finally breakthrough and grasp the concept.

1. Introducing Number Bonds Activity
First we did a free Introduction to Number Bonds activity that used zero numbers.  It simply utilized images of everyday objects to teach the concept of placing a “part” in one box and a “whole” in the other.  It also helped teach the concept of what a “part” is and what a “whole” is without throwing in the abstract thought of math and various numbers.

2. Color a Part Part Whole Mat

We started by color coding a Part Part Whole Mat. She did the coloring to match it to the number sentence, so she’d have a visual to go back to throughout the lesson.

3. Create a Pizzeria
Then we created our own pizzeria.  First, I had pre-cut out a whole pizza and slices of pizza using this document. One pizza is cut out whole.

We put the whole pizza in the “Whole” spot on the number mat. Then we put a number of slices in each part. We practiced counting and seeing how the parts make the whole by using different variations of pizza slices in each part box.

Then we took away the “whole” pizza, and we pretended we were at a restaurant.

My child came to the restaurant two times to order pizza. Each time, she would put the slices of pizza she ordered on a “part”. Then she would count each part to get the “whole” number. We would write the numbers in each appropriate box. Finally, she would transfer the numbers to the number sentence. We did this about 10 times.

4. Sing It
Next, we listened to the Number Bond Song on YouTube twice and sang it two more times by ourselves.

Then we practiced using fingers on the mat and singing the song.

Sing: “A Part” (hold up 3 fingers on the right hand)
Sing: “and A Part” (hold up 2 fingers on the left hand)
Place both hands down on the mat in the part boxes.
Sing: “Make a Whole”
Ask: “How many do they both make?” (Answer)
Write: We wrote the PART numbers and then the WHOLE number on the mat

We repeated this about 5 times, and then I had her be the teacher to challenge me and see if I could figure it out. So she practiced singing, using her hands, and putting them on the mat.

5. Apply It
Once she had mastered this, we moved on to a worksheet with the pizza slices and other icons already on it to count.  You’ll notice the first two sets of problems are identical.  We did the left side of the worksheet first and then repeated it on the right side.  It was truly designed just to test that she understood the concept she was learning.

Once I knew she had that down, we moved on to a worksheet with only numbers for practice.

The entire exercise took us about an hour, but she had it down.

PS: To save paper, we just reused the same mat, and we kept erasing our numbers.  You could also laminate the mat and use a dry erase marker.  But we were just fine erasing and rewriting on the same mat.

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