Subtraction Games

Try out this selection of subtraction games to help children master their subtraction facts.

Subtraction Facts Dice

You will need number cards, a die, and paper and pencil for each child. Use the number cards from 6-20; put the rest aside for another day. This game can be played with 2-5 players, though fewer players means less waiting time.

To play, draw a number card and roll the die. Subtract the number on the die from the number on the card, and write down the answer as your score for that turn. Play for 10 turns, then add up your score. The highest score wins.


Concentration is a memory game that will need problem cards and answer cards. To play, mix up all the cards and set them face down on the table. Take turns turning over one card of each color. If they match, you keep both cards and go again. If they don't match, the next person takes a turn. Continue until all the cards are matched. The person with most cards at the end wins.

Hijack Board Game

Board Game

It's called "Hijack" because, while you need a board to play it, almost any other board game can be hijacked for some subtraction practice. Most board games require you to roll dice to know how many squares to move ahead. In the hijack version, you just change the rules for moving ahead. Instead of dice, you have a deck of subtraction flash cards (preferably a homemade kind that doesn't let you see the answers on the back. Or just draw cards from the middle of the deck and don't look at the answer.) On each turn, draw a subtraction flash card and figure out the answer. If you get 7-2, you get to move forward 5 spaces. Another nice thing about this version is that you can go faster than you would be able to with just one 6 sided die.

Are your kids feeling wiggly and jiggly? Try these high-energy subtraction games:

Slap It

Two players sit across from each other. One child turns a subtraction card over so both can see the problem, and they both put hands on their heads. The first child to figure out the answer to the subtraction problem slaps the card and says the answer. If the answer is correct, the child keeps the card. If the answer is wrong, the other child keeps the card.

Fly Swatter Game

This is a gem among subtraction games! (It can also be used to practice addition, multiplication, etc.) You will need subtraction problems, either on a sheet of paper for you to read to the kids or on flash cards. You will also need the answer to each problem written large on separate sheets of paper. flyswatter subtraction game (Note: duplicate answers, such as 5-1 and 8-4, only need one answer page of 4.) You will also need two fly swatters.

To play, divide the room in half. Bring up two children to the front of the class, one from each class team (this keeps the whole class even more involved while watching each other play). Read them a subtraction problem. They will solve it in their head, then look around the room for the answer on the wall. The first to smack the right answer with the fly swatter wins that round. Bring up a different pair of kids for each round.

This is a fast-moving game and kids love it! While it does take some preparation the first time around, if you write the answer pages on durable paper you should be able to get plenty of use out of them. Have kids help you paste the answer numbers up to make set up go faster.

Magic Mystery Number

Green Die This is actually more like a magic trick, and kids really love it! You will need one regular 6-sided die. Now, the trick to this game is that the numbers opposite each other on a die always add up to 7. Take a look an actual die to see what I mean: if you see a 1 on one side, the opposite side of the die will have a 6 on it.

First, show kids the magic trick. Tell them you have x-ray vision and can see the number on the bottom of the die. Have a child put the die in any position. Look at the number on top and subtract it from 7 to get the number on the other side.

When they have finished ooh-ing and aah-ing, tell them the trick and have them try it out on each other. Once they get good at it, they can go home and impress friends and family.

Subtraction games are a fun way to practice subtraction facts, and kids will ask to play them over and over. With a deck of cards, a couple of dice, and a set of flashcards nearby, you will be ready at a moment's notice with any number of subtraction games to keep bored children happy (and happily learning!).


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
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