Pick, Write & Solve Subtraction

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SWBAT read, write and solve a variety of subtraction problems to 10 by pulling random number sentences from a bag.

Big Idea

Kindergarteners need a lot of practice to reinforce learned skills or they quickly forget. The goal here is to help students become autonomous in solving subtraction problems.

Daily Calendar & Counting Review

15 minutes

Each day we begin our math block with an interactive online calendar followed by counting songs and videos.

Calendar Time:

We do calendar on Starfall every afternoon.  This website has free reading and math resources for primary teachers. It also has a  “more” option that requires paying a yearly fee. The calendar use is free. A detailed description of Daily Calendar math is included in the resources.

Counting with online sources: Today we did counting practice to reinforce the counting skills. We watched two to three number recognition 0-10 videos (one to two minutes each) because some of my students students were still struggling with identifying numbers correctly in random order. We watched"Shawn the Train" and counted objects with him to refresh our memories on how to count objects to ten and to reinforce one to one counting. Since we have started the second quarter of the school year, we added to today's counting practice: counting to 20 forward and backcounting by tens to 100 and counting to 100 by ones to get a jump on our end of the year goals.

Direct Instruction

10 minutes

As with all the subtraction lessons in this unit, I introduce the lesson by having the kids watch and sing with the video, When You Subtract With a Pirate by Harry Kindergarten.

This song gets their kinder brains all geared up for today's subtraction lesson.

I ask the kids some questions to get them thinking about the process of subtraction:

  • What is subtraction? What does it mean to subtract?
  • How do we subtract?
  • Why is important to know how to subtract?
  • How can we help our friends learn how to subtract?


After our initial discussion, I use the direct instruction portion of this lesson to demonstrate, step-by-step, the activity that they will be doing.

1) Pull an equation from the paper bag (lunch size)

2) Copy the problem onto the white board

3) Solve the problem by drawing the necessary number of dots and crossing out the number it tells you to

4) Record the difference

I demonstrate this process several times. The kids naturally join in and begin telling me what to do next with each step.

Guided Instruction

10 minutes

Since this activity (described above in the DI section) is simple to understand, it only takes a few guided practice rounds to remember what to do.

My helper of the day passes out a white board, dry erase marker and a wipe to each student. I instruct the kids not to touch the materials until they are asked to. Not following instructions results in several consequences, so I don't have any problems with kids not following this direction. One of the consequences is that they don't get to play the game. They have to sit with me and learn the concept a different way. The kids love these activities so they try very hard to follow all directions given.

I walk them through it step-by-step twice and they are ready to take off on their own. While I am leading the guided instruction, I look for red flags that some kids may be struggling with the concept of subtraction. I quickly gather those kids onto the floor with me for a longer guided practice or intervention time.

This activity can be played individually or with a partner. It depends on your class and their needs.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Once I am confident that the kids are ready to try the activity on their own, I provide a couple of practice rounds.

For this lesson, I have put the kids in pairs. Partners are assigned with great care in mind. I partner kids according to ability levels. See the demo video below to see how I partner and/or group kids.

As one partner pulls, writes and solves, the other partner is carefully watching and coaching. If there is a problem with what the first student is doing, his/her partner politely stops the student and gently corrects or asks them to solve it again. Sometimes it is just a matter of miscounting when drawing it out or solving it.

I roam the room during this time supporting students in any way needed and/or providing remediation for those who are still struggling with the concept of subtraction.


5 minutes

When our independent work time is concluded, we gather back together on the floor and share our experiences. I ask the kids to share with the class their thoughts on the activity, how we could improve it, and any aha moments that were had.

This provides an opportunity for buy in for the students and makes them feel valued as participants in the classroom.

The information shared from student to students is powerful and the kids learn well from each other.

Exit Ticket

5 minutes

The exit ticket is simple. Each student pulls a problem strip from a paper bag and they take it to their table. They write their name on the back of the slip and solve the problem by drawing and crossing out dots directly under the problem on the strip itself.

As I collect the strips, I place them in three categories:

Meets - solved correctly, correct number of squares crossed out

Approaches - correct representation, but inaccurate answer (most likely a miscount)

Falls Far Below - representation and solution incorrect (needs small group and/or one on one instruction)