Subtraction Sentences

by Shelley Carter

Shelley teaches kindergarten. She is married and recently had a baby girl named Erin.

Instructional Objective The learners will be able to correctly complete subtraction sentences.


Learners/Context Second semester kindergarten students or first graders. Students have completed lessons in subtraction and understand the basic principles. This card game may be used for remediation, practice, or enrichment.


Rationale Young children love games so a card game would be highly motivating. Also, this offers an alternate way for for children with different learning styles to gain knowledge.


Rules The object of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all of his/her cards. To do this, the players must use their cards to make subtraction sentences.

The youngest child is the first dealer. He/she deals 7 cards to each player, starting to his/her left. The remaining cards are put face down in a stack. The dealer turns over the first card and places it face up above the stack.

Starting with the player on the dealer's left, each player places either a number card, a minus card, an equals card, or a wild card with the face up card to create a subtraction sentence. A wild card can stand for any card the player wants.

Note: Subtraction sentences may be created in any order; i.e., if the first card turned is a 4, a player may play any one of the four types of cards as long as the card is placed in the correct place in the subtraction sentence. Since children have already been exposed to subtraction, they will know that their subtraction sentences must have a smaller number being subtracted from a larger number. In cases where the game is to be used for remediation or practice, teacher supervision is recommended.

Once a subtraction sentence is completed, those cards are turned over and moved out of the playing area. The person who completed the sentence gets to use one of his/her cards to start the next round. If a player is not able to play a card, he/she must choose one card from the pile and the play goes to the next player. Should the draw pile run out before the end of the game, the cards from the completed subtraction sentences will be shuffled and they will become the draw pile.

Play continues until one player gets rid of all of his/her cards. If a player is ready to play the final card, but it will not complete the subtraction sentence, he/she must play the card and then complete the subtraction sentence verbally.


Card & Deck Design There are four card types: number cards, minus cards, equals cards, and wild cards.

The deck contains 75 cards. There are 40 number cards (4 of each number 0-9), 15 minus cards, 15 equals cards, and 5 wild cards.


Design Process I had originally chosen an addition card game, but quickly realized that there was no way to limit the numbers. If I only made cards from one to ten, then someone could make the addition sentence 10+1= , and there would be no eleven. Therefore, I decided to make it a subtraction game in order to limit the number of cards. I was concerned about the size of the deck, but I felt that there should be four of each number card if four people wanted to play.

At first I had the order in which the kids played their cards more confining. They had to start with a number card, then play a minus sign, etc., until the sentence was complete. However, this would not have worked, especially with two players, because one could get stuck always playing the numbers and the other, always playing the signs. On the other hand, allowing the the sentences to be created in any order required more thought, particularly if the child saw the following partial sentence in front of them: 7- __ = 3. This concept is particularly difficult for K/1 students to grasp and the card game would give them ample opportunity for practice.

Finally, to end the game, I had originally planned that the last played must complete the sentence, but I decided that this could prolong the game and the children would become frustrated and bored. Thus, the player may play the last card if it fits somewhere in the sentence and then complete the sentence verbally.