Six, Take it Away!

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SWBAT to solve subtraction problems with six by rolling a dice and subtracting the number of dots rolled.

Big Idea

Since kinders find learning how to subtract to be challenging, they need ample practice with subtraction in a variety of ways. Here's one way to get them thinking about taking away.

Daily Calendar & Counting Review

15 minutes

We do our calendar and counting practice everyday. The calendar changes a bit with the unit of study we are working on. The calendar and the portions of the counting practice stay consistent. We practice counting to 20 forward and back, counting by 10’s to 100, and counting by 1’s to 100. These are practiced daily, although some of the videos may video. I cycle through a few different ones to keep it fresh; they contain the same learning content.

If you don’t have a large sharing screen or ActivBoard, using a standard kindergarten wall calendar and posters works just as well. You just need to be the counting aerobics instructor :-).

Here are the videos we use for this lesson:
Counting to 20 -

Countdown from 20 -

Counting by 10’s to 100 -

Counting by 1’s to 100 -

See below for pdf of how we do the calendar.

Direct Instruction

10 minutes

I begin this lesson by reading Five Little Monkeys. I think aloud about the math. I talk about the subtraction that is experienced on each page of the story as each monkey leaves the story.

We then sing our When You Subtract with a Pirate song (see Youtube video below). After singing, we discuss what means to subtract and how it is done.

I demonstrate subtracting objects using the doc cam, a dice and counting cubes. I grab a small handful of cubes out of the tub and put them under the doc cam. I roll the dice and read the number. I remove that amount of cubes and I record the subtraction problem on a piece of paper. 

I do this a few more times and encourage my students to tell me what to do next throughout each problem. This gets them into "subtraction thinking mode."

Guided Instruction

10 minutes

For guided instruction, I first have the kids practice subtraction problems to five (today is only to one more, six). Fluency to five is a critical learning area for kinder that is why I practice to five instead of six. I have them hold up their fingers on one hand and practice using their fingers.

After that, I flash subtraction math fact cards to 5 to build fluency. They can use their fingers, but the goal is for them to be so familiar with subtraction to five that they just begin to memorize them.

I demonstrate the activity for the day. The kids will play the exact same way except for with partners with Partner A taking his/her turn first.

1) Draw a dot in each of the six boxes. Count them

2) Roll the dice and say, "take away ____"

3) Cross out the number of dots rolled on the dice

4) Record the subtraction problem at the bottom of the page. Read it to your partner.


We play this game because subtraction is always a hard concept for kinders to understand. They want to add everything! This is just another activity that is fun and engaging and allows them extra practice with observing the subtraction sign and solving for the difference between two numbers.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

The kids play using the same steps as above. Partner A goes first, then partner B. See below how I strategically chose partners.

I roam the room and make sure everyone is participating and support mathematical thinking. When I encounter a problem, I have the kids meet with me one at a time to clear up the issues. Watch the video to see how Rayne misunderstood the idea of subtraction. I meet with her individually and it clears up the misconception. See the second video (in the reflection) to see how she improved and understood much better just from one coaching encounter!

I stop and ask the kids to explain what they are doing and how they solved the problem. I am looking for clear mathematical explanations as to how and why they subtracted from six. Knowing how to play the game is not what I am looking for. I am looking specifically for the mathematical thinking that takes place in subtraction.


5 minutes

Once independent time is up , I have the kids gather back together on floor to discuss the activity and what we learned from it. I ask the kids to explain what they did and how they did it. Most of my students can clearly communicate what they've learned as I had already asked them during the independent practice time (MP3).

I pull random names to share from a namestick jar so not to subconsciously show favortism or bias.

Exit Ticket

5 minutes

The completed forms are the exit tickets. I collect them from the kids as they line up for their special area class.

I look for red flags that indicate the kids are struggling (process, notation of equation or answers are consistently incorrect). When I encounter those, I meet with those kids in a small group or individually for further instruction or guided practice.

Note: To conserve paper, laminate a set of forms and use them as playing boards with dry erase markers. Copy one set of forms for an exit ticket. There are two forms on one page (see master copy in the Guided Instruction section.