Grade Levels: K-3

In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about basic subtraction. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Basic Subtraction topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.

Classroom Activities for Teaching Basic Subtraction

Fact Families

Bring in old picture frames or have students make their own pictures frames using craft sticks or construction paper. Then have students make “family photos” using related facts. Students may want to draw or cut out numbers and pictures from magazines for their photos. Remind your students that fact families use the same three numbers. Doubles fact families use the same two numbers. Have students create a few photos and post them around the room or make a fact family photo album.

Count Back

Draw a large number line on the floor. Then write different story problems or number sentences on the chalkboard for students to solve. For example, for the number sentence 10 – 3, have a student stand on the number 10 and then step backwards 3 times. Continue to switch roles or have students make up their own number sentences and have partners solve them on the number line.

Act it Out

Write different number stories on the board or pass them out to students. You may wish to mix addition and subtraction word problems. Then have small groups or pairs read the word problems out loud and point to all the key words that give clues about what operation to use. Then have the groups or pairs act out the stories to solve it. Each group should also write a number sentence to solve the story. Challenge your students to use different strategies to solve the word problem.

Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching Basic Subtraction

Snack Counters

Have your child use healthy snacks such as raisins, grapes, baby carrots, nuts, or whole-grain cereal as counters to solve word problems. You can model a story problem such as, “Maria had ten raisins. She ate five. How many are left?” and have your child model the problem to find the answer. Then you can switch roles and have your child make up a story problem. Then ask him or her to explain why your answer is correct or incorrect. You may want your child to write down his or her word problems to practice and develop writing skills.

Ways to Make Ten

Have your child collect ten counters such as dried beans, pennies, or small household items. Then challenge him or her to find different ways to divide the counters into two groups. For example, your child might make two groups of five counters, or a group of three counters and a group of seven counters. Have your child write addition sentences to show their groups, such as 5 + 5 = 10 and 3 + 7 = 10. Then have him or her find the related subtraction facts, such as 10 – 5 = 5 or 10 – 7 = 3. Help your child understand how addition and subtraction are related and how related facts use the same numbers with different operations. Have your child write down the facts on a piece of paper.

What’s Hiding?

You will need a piece of cloth, a piece of paper, a pencil, and a small collection of objects for this game, such as buttons or pennies. Decide on a total number of objects to start with (start with numbers below 10) and write it down at the top of the page. Then have your child close his or her eyes while you hide some of the objects under the cloth. Ask your child to look at how many objects are still visible and figure out how many are hiding. You can record several number sentences from the same fact family to show the math in this game. For example, if you have 8 pennies and hide 2 under the cloth, you can write 8 – 2 = 6, 8 – 6 = 2, 2 + 6 = 8, and 6 + 2 = 8. Take turns hiding and recording the game.