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The Addition Cup Stack builds fact fluency to 6, 10, and 20 through hands-on fun that no child can resist. Just print the 20 differentiated addition challenges for students of all abilities and grab your cups.

addition stacking cups numbers 3-10 stacked in three levels

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How to play Addition Cups Stack

It's all in the name. Add the numbers on the sheet, and then stack the cup with the matching number.

Kids will build many cup towers while mastering addition, in a ridiculously fun activity that they'll beg to play. Believe me, I had to pry my children off these cups in order to take the pictures in this post.

The 5 differentiated sets of stacking challenges are made to meet the needs of learners at varying levels. Choose from adding to 6, to 10, or to 20 for a super challenge.

laminated 5 sets of addition cups with all the colors of cups behind them

As a very loose guideline, this is how I use the cups:

Print out the 5 sets of challenges. Each will come with an answer key, so that kids can self check as they build, making this activity perfect for an independent math center.

To make the activity as kid run as possible, I laminated each set with its Answer Key on the back. So children will be able to self-check when they have completed a challenge.

Prepare the Addition Cups:

You know how sometimes you buy an activity and you just never use it because it's too complicated to do? This is the COMPLETE opposite. Easiest. Prep. Ever.

  1. Print the 5 sets of challenges. Optional: laminate them.
  2. Buy cups you can write on: Paper or plastic. To make all sets you'll need 36 cups.
  3. Write the numbers listed on the bottom of each paper on that set of cups.

These cups will be used for sets 1 and 2. Both sets work on sums to 6. (So for one child, you could use the same cups for sets 1 and 2.)

samples of 2 different challenges using the adding cups

These cups will be used for sets 3 and 4. Kids will make sums to 10 here. (Again, if you'd like to reduce waste, you can just use one set of cups for these.)

sums to 10 cups

These cups are for the final set 5, for practicing sums to 20.

sums to 20 adding cups stem challenge

To avoid the cups from getting mixed up in my classroom, I have written the numbers in different colored markers that match the set number on the challenge sheet. This way kids with the same numbers on their cups won't fight over whose is whose. -Phew!-

Let's get stacking

You'll get:

What are we learning?

Addition Cup Stack meets the common core standards for kindergarten and first grade.

Kindergarten Operations and Algebraic Thinking K.OA
Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from.

  1. Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental
    images...or equations.
  2. Fluently add and subtract within 5.

First Grade Operations and Algebraic Thinking 1.OA
Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction

  1. Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and
    subtraction within 10.
  2. Work with addition and subtraction equations.
child doing the sums to 6 cups
Besides adding, my kiddo is figuring out how to balance and stack the cups to match the picture as well as determining the orientation of the cups! Lots going on.

Besides the obvious, addition, kids are learning how to plan out how to move things in space otherwise called motor planning.

According to TheOTToolbox.com, motor planning is "the ability to plan out, organize, and carry out an action." In this case it is the ability to think about how to stack the cups to match each challenge. Will the cups need to be flipped? Right side up? How can we balance them on top of one another?

As adults this might seem really simple, but many young children benefit greatly from activities that involve fine motor planning, like this free printable STEM challenge.

Wanting to keep stacking cups?

Did you love this addition STEM challenge? I know I did! The original cup stacking challenge that inspired addition cups is actually a reading activity that went viral this year (2023). So if you're working on sounding out CVC words (consonant vowel consonant words), then be sure to check out this activity as well. I even included cups for the digraphs sh and ch to keep your kiddos challenged.

Also, check back as I'm working on some subtraction cups that will use the numbered cups we have already prepped. So you'll just need to print and be on your merry way. Does that count as a life hack?

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