Do you need an activity for teaching the subtraction fact mental strategy to count down or back 1, 2, or 3 from a given number? Are you looking for ways to improve your students’ fluency with subtraction facts? Here’s an idea that’ll have your kids hopping around your classroom!
As part of my teaching past, I used a now defunct, oft-criticized supplemental math program that had high engagement, hands-on activities for developing an understanding of math concepts. This idea is a twist on one that introduced subtraction as taking away a quantity from a given set. While this activity could be implemented in the same manner, I’ve modified it to introduce the subtraction fact mental strategy for counting down or counting back. (I also changed the theme.) It’s a winning way to get your students involved in role-playing as active participants. Personally, I found the concepts of counting up or down, rather than counting on or back, to be easier for my students to grasp. I have, however, included both so you can choose.
For this introductory whole class activity, your students will role-play frogs hopping off lily pads. Designate an area of your classroom as the pond. Prepare 12 lily pads. You can easily google free printable lily pad templates. You can also freehand draw one. Print on colored paper or card stock. Then, laminate and cut. In addition, you could try green paper plates, carpet squares, or sit spots to represent the lily pads.
Kids Graphics by Educlips
Select a count down basic fact subtraction equation. I have included a list in the Frog Hopping Count Down resource. Place lily pads to represent the total number in your “pond”. Choose students (or rather well-behaved, listening frogs) to stand on or by each lily pad. Have your class state the total number of “frogs”. Pick 1, 2, or 3 “frogs” to hop off their lily pad and out of the pond, one at a time, as the class counts down. Demonstrate counting down with a number path, as needed.
Use the structure of a simple word problem while your students are acting it out. For example, 8 frogs were sitting on lily pads. Two frogs hopped off. How many frogs are still sitting on lily pads? Model how to write the corresponding subtraction equation. Repeat with different equations. Your students will eagerly wait for their turns to participate!
Follow up with this Frog Hopping Count Down practice activity. Just click on the highlighted words or a photo. This activity may be used in small groups or as an independent math station.
Materials for Frog Hopping Count Down
- task cards– count down or count back, color or black/ gray/ white
- number paths (optional)- display or individual size, color or black/ white, count down or count back
- optional small counters (frogs, gems, buttons, pompoms, etc.)
- recording sheets or whiteboards
Choose, print, and cut your materials. For durability, use card stock and laminate the task cards and number paths.
Each task card has a frog with a number and either 1, 2, or 3 lily pads. Depending on your students’ readiness, they can place a counter on top of each lily pad, use a frog counter to hop on each lily pad, touch each picture with a finger, or eye each picture to count down or back from the given number. Students can record the corresponding subtraction equations on whiteboards or one of the recording sheets.
Happy hopping! Share your favorite way to teach a subtraction fact mental strategy by leaving a comment.
Still looking for ideas to teach and practice subtraction fact mental strategies?
Check out these blog posts.
- How to Start Teaching Subtract All and Subtract None
- Toss It! How to Actively Engage Your Students
- Subtraction is NOT Just Take Away
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Purchase a Subtraction Fact Mental Strategy resource.