7 Engaging Subtraction Activities

Just when your students have started to get the hang of addition, it's time to have them work their brains in the opposite way with subtraction. It can be tricky for students to grasp the concept of “taking away” when they're used to adding numbers together. These engaging subtraction activities for kindergarten will help your students train their brains to master this key math skill.

7 Engaging Subtraction Activities

#1. Subtraction Bowling

This subtraction activity for kindergarten is engaging and so much fun for students. You can play in whole group or small groups. To play subtraction bowling, simply set up 10 plastic party cups or toilet paper tubes in the shape of bowling pins. Stagger them in rows, 4 in the back row, then 3, 2, and 1 “bowling pin” in the front. Use a small ball to go bowling.

Students will take turns rolling the ball to see how many bowling pins they knock over. Each student will write the subtraction problem on whiteboards and read the subtraction sentence aloud. For example, if one student knocks down 5 bowling pins, all students will write 10-5=5. This activity works great if played in an open area of your classroom or even in the hallway. 

You can also grab your own bowling set to keep in your classroom. You could use this for several activities, including subtraction bowling, addition bowling, number recognition, color recognition, indoor recess, and more. Talk about working those gross motor skills, too!

#2. Subtraction to 10 Boom Cards

This engaging subtraction activity for kindergarten is the perfect way to incorporate technology into your math lessons. Students will solve subtraction problems on 30 digital task cards. Each task card has audio directions so your students know exactly what to do to be successful. Use this as a whole group or small group activity, independent learning center, or assessment.

Not only will your students have fun moving the digital bees into the honey jar to solve the problem and type their answer, but they'll love getting instant feedback on their answers. Plus, that means less grading and no prep for you as the teacher. These subtraction to 10 Boom Cards are great for active learners, visual learners, and auditory learners. 

subtraction to 10 Boom Cards

#3. Act It Out

Act it out is a hands-on and engaging subtraction activity that encourages teamwork and collaboration amongst students. To play, line students up in a ten-frame shape. You can even use painters tape to make a giant ten-frame. Start by making the outside perimeter, then do a long strip down the middle and smaller strips to make the 10 sections.

Have students take turns standing in the spaces to represent 10 counters. Read a subtraction story problem aloud and have students act the problem out, using themselves as counters in the ten-frame. Have them all say the subtraction sentence aloud. You can also have them write it on a white board.

Act It Out-Dice Edition

For another way to play, have students line up in the ten-frame. Students will take turns rolling a large foam dice. Whatever number they land on is the number of students that will be taken away from the ten-frame. 

#4. Roll and Race

Roll and Race is a kid favorite subtraction activity for kindergarten. It brings an element of excitement and competition to your subtraction lessons that is highly motivating for kids. There are 30 no prep games included, 10 addition, 10 subtraction, and 10 mixed practice. 

Students will roll a dice and match the number to the column on their game board. They'll solve the first available problem, either coloring in or covering the space with a manipulative when they've solved it correctly. Students can play independently or with a partner to race to see who can fill a column up first. 

Roll and Race subtraction game

#5. Play Dough Smash

Just the name of this subtraction activity for kindergarten sounds like fun, doesn't it? To play this hands-on game, roll play dough into 10 small balls. This is great fine motor practice as well as size comparison practice for your students. Then, lay the play dough in a ten-frame pattern.

Write subtraction equations on a notecard or sticky note. Students will draw a problem and model it with their play dough by smashing the play dough balls they need to take away. After they've solved it, they can write their subtraction sentence on a white board and roll their play dough back into shape to play again.

#6. Know and Show

Know and Show is another hands-on subtraction activity for kindergarten to help them learn to solve equations and model them using a variety of strategies, including modeling with manipulatives, using a number line, using a ten-frame, and using number bonds.

Students will read the math sentence on the activity card and solve using the strategy shown on the addition or subtraction mat. Then, they'll show their answer using either dry-erase markers, magnetic numbers, number tiles, etc. There are 130 different addition and subtraction problem cards included for a ton of meaningful practice and differentiation. 

Know and Show subtraction work mats

#7. Cookie Flip

Subtraction Cookie Flip is a math center treat your students will love. Using cardstock or foam circle cutouts, have your students decorate the circles to look like cookies. You can have students decorate 5 cookies each if you're playing in partners or 10 cookies each if playing independently.

To play, place 10 cookies on a cookie sheet. Students will roll the dice, flipping that number of cookies over with a flat spatula to model the subtraction problem. They can write the equation on a whiteboard for extra practice. If playing in partners, students will take turns rolling, flipping, and solving. 

Bonus: Addition and Subtraction to 10 Bundle

If you're loving the subtraction activities for kindergarten included in this blog post, you can check out all 9 games, activity mats, and worksheets included in this low prep, highly engaging addition and subtraction to 10 bundle. The activities included are perfect for learning all year long. 

Your students will have their brains trained for subtraction and be mastering the art of “take away” in no time. I hope you and your students have a blast with these subtraction activities for kindergarten!

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