This giant set of no prep games is great for helping kids learn subtraction strategies for the basic facts!
Addition versus subtraction.
Which one is easier to understand?
In general, kids grasp the concept of addition much more easily. Combining sets isn’t too complicated. And there are countless fun ways to practice it.
If you teach first grade, you know that it can be a tough concept for some kids to grasp.
It helps to start with the simpler facts and work your way up to the harder ones.
These printable games should help!
Free games that teach subtraction strategies
I created a set of strategy games to help kids master their subtraction facts. Don’t feel the need to teach every strategy or play every game. Just use the ones that would be helpful for your students, either in the classroom as buddy work or as homework to play with a sibling or parent.
How to play
- Take turns naming giving the answer to a subtraction problem. When you answer correctly, dot or cover the math fact. (We recommend Do-a-Dot markers – but use newspaper underneath, because they can be messy.)
- Whoever gets four in a row first, wins!
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When you download the games, you’ll notice that they’re more than four-in-a-row games. They’re subtraction strategy games. The sidebar of each game introduces a strategy for solving a particular group of facts.
For example… have you heard of the zero finger strategy?
My Six knows his subtraction facts pretty well, but this strategy helped him out when we were doing this page of harder facts.
When I pulled out the Magic 9 facts, I asked him if he knew the special tricks you can do when you subtract nine. He already knew this one: add one to the second digit of the first number to get your answer.
But this was a new one for him: when you subtract nine, add the two digits of the first number and you have your answer!
The cool thing about these games is that there’s more than subtraction at work. My first grader had to be strategic as he tried to make sure I didn’t get four in a row first.
In the above example, he realized that if he blocked me on the left (with 15-9), I could still win. So he wrote a note to himself in yellow gel pen (“yes!”) next to 14-9.
(Note: Your students may or may not be ready to focus on blocking the other player. I lost track of how many times I said, “Watch out! You better block me!”)
After three games he was ready to play outside (and who could blame him on a 60 degree day in February?!). So I asked my Eight (a second grader) to play just one game with me.
He knows his subtraction facts very well, so he was very focused on making sure he got four in a row first. You can see him study the game board in the above picture!
I just shared a few sample games for you to get an idea of what you’ll find in the download. Here’s the complete set!
- -0 Subtraction Facts
- Minus Itself Subtraction Facts
- -0 & =0 Subtraction Facts
- -1, -2 Subtraction Facts
- -3, -4, -5 Subtraction Facts
- Using Doubles Facts
- Build on Doubles Subtraction Facts
- Subtraction from 10
- Using the -10 Facts That You Know
- Zero Finger Subtraction Strategy
- Magic 9 Facts
- Subtracting 10
- Subtract 9 by Subtracting 10
- Subtract to 10, then Subtract Again
- Use Addition Facts When You Subtract
- Mixed Practice Games #1-3
Don’t forget our addition strategy games!
Thank you for these guides. My 1st grader has been struggling in Math and I’ve had a hard time teaching her because I didn’t understand the math facts and strategies they teach in school. Your guide has helped me as just as it’s going to help her!
I’m glad this helped, Renee!
Anna, you are amazing. You manage to make your awesome math games even better! I love that you added thinking strategies to them! I teach my students strategies and always have them tell me their thinking when they problem solve. This is just perfect! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
You’re very welcome, Susan!
This is a wonderful resource to support our grade 1 students struggling with their facts! Thank you for your generosity in sharing your efforts and creativity to benefit so many!
You’re very welcome, Kathleen!
My students LOVE the 4 in a row games! Do you have a 4 in a row for multiplication? I saw that you have the game for one person, but I would love to have the same concept as the other games. Thank you for your creativity! You make learning so much fun
Not yet – but I will put that list on my list of potential projects!
Thank you so much for your amazing work!
You’re welcome, Edd!
I printed and played one of these games with my homeschooled 6-year-old son last night when I didn’t have the emotional or physical energy to do my prepared math lesson with him. It helped him learn his subtraction facts, and he loved playing it with me! As soon as the game was done, he asked to play again! Thanks a bunch for making these games available and therefore making a difficult day easier for me! I will definitely be using your other games as part of my curriculum, also!
Ah, this was wonderful to hear! I’m thrilled your son enjoyed the game and that it gave you a much-needed break! Hugs to you on your homeschooling journey!
Very practical and engaging for students! Thank you for your generosity in sharing such a great resource.
You’re very welcome, Lynda!
10q sis Anna. Really help me alot to teach my school kids and my own kids..May God bless u sis
Thank you so much for the kind words, Neermala!
Thanks for the fun games. Kiddos will love.
You’re welcome, Cindy!
Thank you for the very useful resources to build skills.
very much appreciative.
You’re very welcome, Deb!
YES! Thank you!
You’re very welcome, Shari!
Thanks so much Anna for a much needed resource. They are of great help to my kids. I always use them.
You’re very welcome, Marilyn!
I can’t thank you enough for your wonderful resources. I use them all the time!!
That’s wonderful to hear, Shelly!
Thankyou so much for your fabulous resources! Amusing that children on opposite sides of the world have the same needs. Many thanks to you once again for your generosity.
Yes, isn’t that interesting? So glad you can use these in Australia, too!