Number lines were not used for teaching addition and subtraction when I was at school, but when my kids started infant school we were introduced to these as a simple tool to help them understand these concepts. With my oldest, he has always been so quick with mental calculations that I admit I never saw the benefit in the number line and hardly used it. My younger boys (age 4 and 6, in Reception and year 1) changed my views on it though, as they like to use their number lines often and I can see that it does help them – making the concepts of addition and subtraction so simple and clear.

We decided to make our own number line using LEGO Duplo to make using a number line more tactile and fun.

Lego DUPLO number line for addition and subtraction. Simple hands on math

What is a number line?

If you didn’t learn to use number lines in school either, they may be new to you too. A number line is simply a line of numbers, typically from 1-10 or 1-20, that allows children to count along forwards or backwards as a visual way of adding up or taking away.

For example, if you want to do 4 plus 3, you’ll go to 4 on the number line then count on three spaces, and see that you’ve landed on the 7 – so 4+3=7

For subtraction it’s the same idea but backwards, so for 10-2 you’ll start on 10 and count back two spaces to land on the 8.

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LEGO DUPLO number line

So back to our LEGO DUPLO number line. To make this you will need:

  • One or two base plates, depending on size
  • Bricks totalling either 10 or 20 spaces. We used five 4×2 bricks, which is ideal since it makes 20 spaces
  • Sharpie pen
  • LEGO DUPLO figure

All you’ll need to do is write the numbers on the side of the bricks using a sharpie, and stick them down in order onto the base plates. This can be set up in under 5 minutes. The sharpie pen is permanent, so if you want to be able to wash or wipe it off later, try substituting for a dry wipe pen.

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Now that your LEGO DUPLO number line is set up, your child can easily play and learn with it practising simple sums. I left ours out on the table for the kids to discover and they recognised it as a number line straight away and got into challenging each other with some simple addition and subtractions.

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They can use this independently and this hands on practice helps to solidify the concept of addition and subtraction for the younger ones – with the added fun of LEGO!

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More LEGO learning

Earlier this week, we made a LEGO days of the week activity for learning languages

For more LEGO learning ideas suited for KS1 (early elementary) check out these ideas shared this week by the rest of the Early Elementary blogging team…

lego learning activities

LEGO Classification – Printable Diagrams from Life Over C’s

LEGO number line for Addition and Subtraction from In The Playroom

Hands-On Synonym Blocks Matching Game from Raising Little Superhereos

Spelling With LEGOS! from Preschool Powol Packets

LEGO Boat Engineering Challenge from Handmade Kids Art

Using LEGO to find Syllables from Rainy Day Mum

Area and Perimeter with Lego Duplos from School Time Snippets

Plural Nouns with LEGO from Still Playing School

Combinations of Ten Using Lego Figures from Lemon Lime Adventures

How to do an Lego Engineering Project for Kindergarten, First, or Second Grade from Thriving STEM

Estimating and Probability with LEGO from Planet Smarty Pants

Lego Bar Graphs for First Grade from Look We’re Learning

LEGO Irregular Verb Matching Activity for Second Grade from Sugar Aunts

Exploring Symmetry with a Lego Firefly from Crafty Kids at Home

Pick Two: A Fun LEGO Math Game from Creative Family Fun

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Lego Duplo number line for addition and subtraction up to 20