Lesson plan

Fishy Math

Students will have oceans of fun as they use manipulatives to create math stories about subtraction.
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  • Students will create and illustrate their own math stories using subtraction.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell your class that they will be learning about subtraction, or taking away.
  • Read Ten Little Fish aloud to the class. Alternatively, you could read another story that involves subtracting from 10.
(10 minutes)
  • After reading the story, ask your students some discussion questions to gauge their understanding of subtraction. Possible discussion questions include: What is one example of subtraction in this book? What was the remainder of the fish, or the amount left over?
  • Give each student one blue laminated sheet and ten plastic fish. The students will use the laminated sheet as a work mat, and the plastic fish will be used as counters.
(15 minutes)
  • Re-read the story. Each time one fish swims away in the book, have each student remove one fish from her mat and count the remainder.
  • As you read, keep an eye out for students who remove too many fish from their mats or have trouble counting the remainder.
  • Once the story is over, have each student come up with a story. Let your students share with a partner, and have the partner illustrate the story for the other. For example, one student could tell her story: There were 9 little fish. A shark came along and ate 2 fish. How many little fish are left? Then, the partner would be using his own mat to illustrate with plastic fish.
(15 minutes)
  • Have your students create new stories. Ask them to practice taking the fish away with the manipulatives and laminated sheet.
  • When they are ready, have them illustrate their stories with crayons on drawing paper.
(10 minutes)
  • After reading the story, ask your students some discussion questions to gauge their understanding of subtraction. Possible discussion questions include: What is one example of subtraction in this book? What was the remainder of the fish, or the amount left over?

Enrichment: Challenge students to create subtraction stories using numbers beyond 10. Have them write and illustrate their stories. You could also have these students play the Treasure Chest Subtraction game.

Support: Have students begin with only 5 fish. Make sure they touch and count each fish. They may also work with a partner to illustrate their math stories.

(15 minutes)
  • Pass out a copy of the Under the Sea Subtraction worksheet to each student.
  • Have each student complete the worksheet independently.
  • While they are working, walk around and look at your students' illustrated math stories. Make sure they are correct, and if not, ask the student to walk you through the story to catch mistakes.
(10 minutes)
  • After the students have illustrated their math stories, select a few to display.
  • Have those students explain their stories to the class.
  • End the lesson by passing out fish-shaped crackers that students can use to keep making math stories or gobble up!

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