EL Support Lesson

How Many Floors Down?

Students will love incorporating stories and acting as they practice creating their own subtraction equations. This can be used as a stand-alone or support lesson for the Subtracting Numbers lesson plan.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Subtracting Numbers lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Subtracting Numbers lesson plan.

Students will be able to solve subtraction problems using numbers 0–10. Students will be able to explain how to subtract items from a group using acting and a number line to represent the problem.

(2 minutes)
  • Gather the class together.
  • Ask: "Has anyone ever been on an elevator before?"
  • Display the elevator vocabulary card and use student examples along with the card to provide a relevant definition.
  • Hold up the book Elevator Magic and go on a brief picture walk to preview the story.
(5 minutes)
  • Read the first half of the story aloud, pausing on each page to notice how many floors Ben is going down.
  • Display the number line and model how the floors are going down, just like the numbers go down on the number line.
  • Introduce the word subtraction as taking something away from something else, using the elevator going down as an example (e.g., when they go down one floor, write "10 – 1 = 9" to figure out which floor they will be on next).
  • Write up an equation from the beginning of the story 10 – 1 = 9 on the board and explain that this is how we write a subtraction number sentence. Model how to read it aloud: "Ten minus one equals nine."
  • Model solving the subtraction problem using the number line to show how to take one away, or jump to the smaller number.
  • Explain the difference between addition and subtraction using the number line to model an addition problem.
(5 minutes)
  • Finish reading the story, inviting the students to act out the scene by pretending to be Ben going down in the elevator.
  • Collaboratively write and solve equations to go with several more pages of the story.
  • Ask students to turn and talk to answer the question: "If Ben was on the 7th floor and went down 1 floor, which floor would he be on? What might he see?"
  • Share out and record the subtraction problem on the board, using the number line (or elevator buttons) to solve the problem.
(20 minutes)
  • Explain that now students will get to make their very own elevator and set of elevator buttons.
  • Display the cardboard boxes and materials and go over any classroom materials expectations.
  • Pair students together and explain that they will have 10 minutes to create their elevator and buttons. After 10 minutes, ring a bell to signal time for them to go down the elevator and practice figuring out which floor will be next.
  • Send students to work in pairs.
  • Ring the bell halfway through the work period and circulate around the room to ensure students transition to playing "elevator" and working to find out which floor will be next.


  • Work with students in a smaller group to practice creating and solving subtraction problems.
  • Provide students with pre-made number lines 0–10 to support their understanding.


  • Ask students to record the subtraction problems using a number sentence.
  • Encourage students to explain to a partner how to solve each problem using a number line.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask guiding questions throughout the lesson to assess understanding (e.g., "How many floors are you going down?" "What floor will we be on next? How do you know? Can you show me using the elevator button panel?").
  • Circulate around the room and take note of how students are interacting with their number line/elevator controls. Check for areas of confusion and/or misunderstanding.
(3 minutes)
  • Gather the students back together.
  • Share out some of your observations of how students were using their elevator button panel to solve problems.
  • Applaud student work.

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