Subtraction in the Garden

When you introduce subtraction to your students you will first teach them that it is the removal of part of a group. Your early activities will perhaps be focused on taking objects away from a collection. 

Help your students to demonstrate taking away by using our action rhyme 10 Happy Flowers to first create an experience from which you can discuss subtraction in your follow up lessons.

Here is a minimal equipment, no-prep game to also help your students act out subtraction in a hands-on, concrete way. 

Flower Garden Subtraction Game

You need:

  • counters
  • dice
  • green paper (optional)

To play:

  • students play in pairs
  • place each have their own small collection of counters in the garden (green paper) - e.g. 15 counters
  • players take turns to roll and take flowers from their own garden, each having 3 turns
  • at the end of play, the students with the least number of flowers left in their garden is the winner
  • regularly ask students to tell you about their flower garden - how many they are taking and how many are left etc

Here a student has rolled a 4 and removed it from their garden of 10.

On their second roll, he rolls a 1 and removes this from the garden. Perhaps you could ask how many have now been removed and how many flowers are left.

On the third and final roll the student rolls a two, takes them aways and has a remainder of 3.
Here students in the pair will compare their final group and determine the winner. 

Subtraction as comparing or difference

After your students are confident with subtraction as take away, you will move on to subtraction by comparison or difference perhaps. 1 less than is a great strategy to teach here too. 

In the premium coloring club today we have a one page activity where students can find 2 flowers that differ by one and link them. Before you attempt this page:
  • review 1 less than
  • teach difference/comparison subtraction
  • review a number line and look at before/after numbers
  • support by modeling with some subtraction stories
  • model how to find 2 numbers that differ by 1