Lesson plan

Subtraction Fishing Action

Make subtraction delicious with this fun "fishing" game! Learning to take away will be delightful when your students fish for goldfish crackers.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Subtracting Buttons pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Subtracting Buttons pre-lesson.

Students will be able to represent subtraction problems by manipulating up to 5 objects.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • Tell your students that today they will be practicing taking away, which is also called subtraction.
  • You can show an example by stacking 5 blocks and taking 2 away and counting the remaining 3 blocks aloud.
  • Tell students that they can also count backwards to subtract.
(5 minutes)
  • You may use an overhead projector or whiteboard to model subtraction with a backwards counting line, or you may use a chart for large groups or individual sheets for small groups or individual students.
  • Place a counting object such as counting blocks or bingo chips on each numbered space. Model counting as you take away chips and point to the remaining chips and their number.
(5 minutes)
  • Give each student a backwards counting sheet.
  • Distribute 5 counting chips to each student.
  • Tell your class to take one chip away. Ask your students to determine how many chips they have left.
  • After students have determined that there are four chips left, ask them to take away two more.
  • Discuss with students how they would go about finding how many chips they now have left. Continue until students come to the conclusion that there are two chips left.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell your students that they will now get to eat and practice subtraction at the same time. Give each student 5 fish crackers, a pretzel stick (fishing pole), a dab of cream cheese (bait), and a plate.
  • Demonstrate how to pick up a fish with the pretzel stick.
  • Students will count the total number of fish on their plate and the number of fish caught. They will then state the difference, or the answer to the number of fish left on their plate.
  • Have students practice until they get to zero fish left on the plate.


  • Students who are having difficulty with the concept may start from a smaller number.


  • Students who are ready for a bigger challenge may practice subtracting from 10 until they hit zero.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out Let's Practice Subtraction! and have students complete the worksheet independently.
  • Collect the worksheets and check for accuracy.
(5 minutes)
  • Call your class into a group and review subtraction using manipulatives.
  • Use items that your entire class can see and complete a few subtraction problems by taking the objects from in front of you and putting them behind your back, or somewhere else out of sight.

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