I love making lessons hands-on and engaging for my students. To truly drive home the concept of subtraction, I went with a Montessori-inspired center. During my guided math groups, I presented them with the lesson.
For the lesson I needed items that were easily found in my house or school: 3 bowls, (2 that were the same size and 1 that was a different size), beads, and subtraction cards that I made.
When I taught the lesson, I explained to my students that subtraction means that you are taking something away. I had my students hold out their hands and I gave them all some beads. I asked them to count them. They happily obliged as they felt the weight of the heavy glass beads I had selected to use in my lesson. (I purposefully chose them because they are enticing to look at and fun to count with!) Next, I took some beads away from all of my students. I asked them if they now had more or less beads. “LESS!!” they easily exclaimed. I then made the connection to what had just happened with the beads to subtraction in math.
To present the lesson I set out a tray in front of my students. On the tray I set three bowls, the glass beads, and two containers that had the equations and the answers. I placed the equation we were working on in front of my students. I taught them how to read the equation and reviewed that the symbol for subtraction meant take away.
Next, I had one of my students count out ten glass beads and put them in the first bowl.
My next student then re-read the equation. (10 take away 7) I had him take seven beads out of the first bowl and put them in the middle bowl. We called that bowl the “take away” bowl.
My students then counted how many beads we had left. “THREE!” they said! My students then moved the three beads to the final bowl and looked for the answer to our equation.
They happily read the equation again. “Ten take away seven equals three!”
They asked if they could do another one and we placed the entire equation to the right of our tray and got started on our next equation.
I am so happy with the outcome of this lesson. Not only did my students enjoy the process of learning how to subtract, they have been happily picking this center during choice time and math centers. They also have a very concrete understanding of what subtraction is!