Subtraction can be a tricky concept for young learners. In the past, I have spent a significant amount of time practicing and understanding number bonds to ease the transition to subtraction. There are a lot of ways to model subtraction for kids, including reading books together. Today I’m sharing another fun way to build an early understanding of subtraction using a game that kids will love: Wrecking Ball Subtraction. This hands on math activity will model subtraction using building blocks. Plus, this easy subtraction game uses materials you likely already have on hand!
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Materials Needed for Wrecking Ball-Easy Subtraction Game:
- Set of building blocks (any blocks that can be knocked over will work)
- Subtraction game recording page (download below)
How to Play:
This game is so simple. First, let your child build a tower out of blocks. My kids really had fun with this and created somewhat intricate designs (even though they knew they would knock it down!).
Once their tower is complete, make sure they count up the total number of blocks in the tower and record it on the print out.
I used this as a way to practice skip counting with my son.
Then the really fun part: demolishing the tower!
Give your child a yo-yo with the string let out. This makes the perfect “wrecking ball” for their tower.
They can then stand up and swing the yo-yo at the tower to see how many blocks they can knock down in one swing.
My kids loved this, and would shout and cheer each time a building was effectively demolished.
Then, let them count the total blocks knocked down, and the blocks that remain in their tower. They can then fill in these numbers on their recording page.
You may need to help with this if it’s unclear which blocks were knocked down. Make sure to put away any unused blocks before they demolish their tower, otherwise it can be hard to tell which were knocked down and which were simply laying on the floor.
Once you have confirmed the totals in each column, help your child use those values to write a subtraction equation.
Depending on the age and ability of your child, you may have to model and talk through this with them the first couple of times before encouraging them to write an equation on their own.
Variations of the Game:
You could limit the number of blocks they start with if you want to focus on subtraction with smaller numbers.
For instance, if you want to focus on subtraction within 20, give them exactly 20 blocks. Then let them build various towers using all the blocks each time. This way the starting number will always be 20.
Or for older kids, this easy subtraction game is a great way to begin practicing subtraction with double digit numbers.
If you have more than one child, have them each build a tower (or take turns) and challenge each other to see who can knock down the most. Just make sure they each start with the same number of blocks.
However you decide to play, be sure to have fun! You may even want to give your kids some time simply building towers and demolishing them (without practicing subtraction).
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Looking for more fun subtraction ideas? Try one of these!
- Number sentence roll and write: addition and subtraction fact families
- Children’s books to teach addition and subtraction
- Equation search puzzles (addition and subtraction)
- Simple trick to end the frustration with subtraction regrouping
Have fun playing with blocks and numbers!
And you may also like this set of mazes–a fun and unique way to practice addition and subtraction within 10! It also includes extension ideas, so kids don’t just focus on memorizing facts, but look for patterns and think deeply about math.
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