Adding with Arrays

Contributor: Danielle Childers. Lesson ID: 10044

Can an egg carton help you with counting? How about an ice cube tray or cell phone? Rows and columns can help you count and organize things. Jump into arrays, and snack while learning this math skill!


Arithmetic, Operations and Algebraic Thinking

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
PreK/K, Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • Do you keep your clothes in a dresser?
  • Or do you have a shelf or cubby where you keep your toys?

Skip back to your bedroom or playroom and count how many drawers or shelves you have. Take a picture in your mind of what the dresser, shelf, or cubby looks like. You've just begun a math adventure!

  • Did you take a mental picture of your dresser or shelving unit?

Now, take a minute to draw the dresser or shelf on a blank sheet of paper. It will probably look something like the picture below:


This is called an array. Arrays are tools you can use to make it easier to count and add. When you are older, you can use an array to help you multiply. An array is made up of rows and columns.

  • Have you ever sat in a row, maybe at a movie theater, on a bus, or at a sporting event?

When you sit in a row, it is easier to see things. Rows also create organization.

Rows always go across.

Columns go up and down to help support the array, just like columns in a building help support the roof.

array rows and columns

Let's practice writing addition equations to find the total number of objects in an array.

In one of your dresser drawers, you have shirts folded and arranged in two rows and four columns:


Using this array, we can find the total number of shirts in this drawer. We can use two expressions to solve this problem.

First, let's look at the rows:


There are 2 rows of shirts. If you count the first row, there are 4 shirts. Each row has 4 shirts. You will add the rows together to find the total number of shirts.

Row + Row = Total

(Notice I am adding two rows because that is how many rows are in this array.)

4 + 4 = 8

Next, let's look at the columns:


This time we will count the number of columns. There are 4 columns. In each column there are 2 shirts. You will add the columns together to find the total number of shirts.

Column + Column + Column + Column = Total

(Notice I am adding four columns because that is how many columns are in this array.)

2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8

Both expressions gave us the answer of 8 shirts in the drawer!

  • Can you think of other places you have seen arrays?

Watch Real Life Arrays by Miss DuBose below to see some places where you see arrays every day:

After watching the video, continue on to the Got It? section to jump into arrays!

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