Making 20 - Climb the Apple Tree

Here is a hands-on playful addition game for making 20. Students will explore different combinations as they decide on a number to add next. Repeated plays will let students develop strategies for planning their next number and working more fluently with various combinations. 

Climb the Apple Tree

  • play in pairs
  • each player has a different color dice (I used foam jumbo dice from KMart, they're great)
  • let one student start building the ladder to climb the apple tree by placing their dice down to reveal a number of their choice (in the photo below the first player chose 2)
  • the other player chooses a number and adds it to the ladder, both students find the new total (now 2+5=7)
  • play returns to the first player who again selects a number and the new total is calculated (2+5+4=11)
  • play continues until a player can reach an exact 20 - they may be declared the winner
  • play as many times as possible to build fluency and allow for strategies to be developed and internalized 

making 20 game

The apple tree painting featured here is optional but may be a nice engagement tool for your learners. 

You can find the steps for an apple tree drawing in the Coloring Club.

apple tree drawing

Ask students to record the numbers that make 20 in their math journal or on a whiteboard to share with the class.

addition to 20

After playing, extend this learning:

Fast Tower

  • play again with individual students, set a timer and have them build a tower of 20 as fast as they can


  • tell a math story and ask your students to picture it in their mind, calculating the apples on the tree as they listen: Today in the park I saw an apple tree. It was enormous and quite leafy. I counted the red apples on the tree, there were 5. There were 3 apples on the ground and 4 in a basket someone had picked. How many apples did I see?

Action Rhyme

Find more ideas, games and resources for addition on our website page!