Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

Monday, 12 March 2018

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps
Number bonds can be a bit intimidating, so before you jump in, let children spend some time getting to know the graphic and its function.  Here are the 5 concrete steps I use to "cement" children's understanding of number bonds.

Step 1: Explore Part and Whole

Since number bonds are used to help children understand the relationship between a whole number and its parts, it is best to begin by exploring this part-whole relationship.

Food works great for this! We sorted food picture cards into "whole" and "part" groups.

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy StepsWe then looked closely at our snacks to see who was eating a "part" and who was eating a "whole!"

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

I also had the children draw part/whole pictures which helped me to see how well they were grasping the concept.

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

Step 2: Explore the Graphic

Once children understand the meanings of the words "part" and "whole," you will want them to closely examine the number bond template.

I gave each child their own copy, and invited them to share what they noticed about it.

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps
I then challenged them to point to the "whole" circle and the "part" circles.

It's important that you do this with the template in all four directions as number bonds are displayed in various ways and we want children to be flexible in their thinking.

Step 3: Build it

Children need to know the number bond inside and out before working with it.  Provide opportunities for children to build number bonds using hands-on materials.

We used paper plates and straws, but get creative and use what you have on hand! Make sure children build them in all directions and ask them to touch the whole and parts when named.

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

Step 4: Draw it

Number bonds aren't always made with circles!  Sometimes boxes, in both square and rectangular shapes, are used.

I invited children to draw number bonds in all directions using shapes of their choosing. Some drew squares and triangles, while others got real creative and drew stars, hearts, and suns.

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

Step 5: Act it Out

With this last step, you'll introduce the terms compose (put together/join) and decompose (break apart) and let children use a hula hoop number bond to act out these operations.  

I began with decomposing and invited a specific number of children to stand in the "whole" circle. When I said, "decompose" or "break apart," they moved to the part circles. We repeated this several times until all children had several chances to be in the number bond. The next day, I repeated the lesson, but instead of "breaking apart," we "put together" and learned about composing numbers.

Next Steps

Once children are familiar with the graphic and understand that numbers can be broken apart and put together, you can begin to use the number bond to compose and decompose numbers!

I started with the floor number bond using objects, such as Beanie Babies, and told "put together" and "break apart" stories.  We then labeled the circles with number cards to connect the concrete to the abstract and recited the corresponding number sentences out loud.

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

From there, we moved on to Number Bond Math Mats to compose and decompose one single whole number at a time. 

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

Each mat has a pictorial number bond for use with counters along with a traditional number bond so children can move from concrete to abstract.

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

Equation boxes are also included so number bonds can be converted into number sentences. 

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps

Seasonal themes and fun counters add novelty to a predictable routine that is repeated with each new whole number. 

Introducing Number Bonds in 5 Easy Steps
I no longer get queasy when it's time for number bonds!  Children really enjoy these first steps and are composing and decomposing numbers in no time at all!  

Thanks for stopping by!



  1. I LOVED this post! Great variety, great fun... thank you

  2. I absolutely love this! The way you get them to understand the concept before doing it with numbers is fantastic. I will definitely be using these ideas this year!

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