Working on **subtraction** has been a goal of mine in teaching math to kindergartners. This **kindergarten subtraction game** “What’s the Difference?” is one example of how I’m working to teach subtraction in various ways to better meet the needs of my students.

## My Fear of Math

I’ll be the first to admit that math is not a personal strength of mine.

So when I first wanted to teach math in small groups, it scared me! I wan’t sure I’d have what it takes to help kinders THINK through their math when I had limited strategies of my own. I’ve learned since starting that I could develop my own strategies right alongside of my kinders and I won’t consider going back to the “curriculum.”

When approaching how to teach subtraction, I literally felt as if I had no real, dig-deep strategies or tools to teach what subtraction was other than modeling simple stories with manipulatives, teaching touch-dot counting or even using a number line.

That meant I knew basic subtraction games like using a die for subtraction bump.

Great for independent practice of routine subtraction, but not for seeing the strategies that students use and allowing for good discussion.

## A Happy Find

I came across the Dot Card and Ten Frame Activities free resource download when I was researching Common Core standards.

I was thrilled to find this compilation of basic activities that focused on number sense.

This happy find made me feel as if I had the beginning tools to create a solid foundation with my students.

It has led to a much greater understanding for me in teaching teen numbers and numbers larger than 20 too.

If you’re considering switching to teaching math in small groups, I highly recommend plugging in these activities as your first beginning of the year lessons as you teach yourself how to lesson plan for groups.

This “What’s the Difference” game I’m sharing today has evolved from their #9 activity listed on pg. 10.

## Subtraction Math Game

### How to Play

Using ten frames or subitizing dot cards (depending upon skill level) and counters, students can play this game in a small group. I like using the subitizing dot cards, having a number chart or number line on hand.

- Spread out five cards (face down) in a semi-circle or line. Put the rest in a “draw” pile face down.
- Students take turns turning over the top card in the draw pile and flip over one of the spread cards. These are their two cards needed to compare for their turn.
- The student must determine “What’s the difference?” between the two cards and take that amount of counters. I like using linking cubes so they are easier to contain during play.
- The card that was turned over from the spread pile (one of the five) is flipped over again for someone else to use and the card from the draw pile is discarded.
- Play continues until all of the cards from the draw pile have been used.
- The player with the most counters wins.
- Observe to see what strategies students are using to find the difference and to get the most counters. They will begin to remember what numbers are in the five spread card places… which makes for great discussion!

## What We Gained

I mainly used this game with my most accelerated {gifted and talented in this case} kinders.

We had the number mats out to use a strategy tool to see how far apart the numbers were in finding the difference. Some students tried to find the same number of dots on the larger of the two cards and then see how many more there were.

I didn’t really give them any solutions, but let them really try to figure it out themselves since it’s not your typical “subtraction” situation problem.

We developed strategies by talking to each other and offering suggestions when someone felt stuck. They really began to listen to each other in how they were solving it and watched closely.

If they felt stuck, I tried to **only ask questions** that would help them clarify their thinking.

Of course, it’s also addition which makes this a neat concept to work on and increases the strategies available {wink}

## Changing It Up

To use it with all students, I’d go towards using the ten frame cards in place of the more abstract subitizing cards.

The number line/mats were handy to most students by the end of the lesson so I’m sure to have those built in next time since our table seemed to fill up with “stuff” making gameplay a little more cumbersome.

Hopefully, you can find it helpful too if you’re looking for ways to discuss subtraction strategies!

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