The “colored counter” method is an old tried-and-true method for teaching the concept of adding signed numbers. However, to show subtraction with the colored counter method has always seemed painful to me … that is, until I altered the method slightly.

Now all problems are demonstrated within a “Sea of Zeros” and when you need to take away counters, you can simply borrow from the infinite sea. Voila! Here’s a short video to demonstrate addition and subtraction of integers using the “Sea of Zeros” method. You can print some Colored Counter Paper here.

Dr. Maria Andersen has spent most of her career teaching, writing curriculum, and developing digital products for learning. Recently she returned to the classroom, having new teaching adventures in K-12 middle and high school.