Before young children even see the minus sign or hear the words "take away" or "subtraction," we can help them to understand the meaning of this mathematical operation. Children easily see and appreciate the concept of addition - it means more, something that developmentally is appealing to children. But when we talk about take away, that isn't always as appreciated. No young child likes things taken away. Here are two age-appropriate and fun ways to help preschoolers understand the concept.
First, counting backwards encourages subtraction readiness. We suggest making a game out of this. For example, you can easily add this as part of classroom management. As children line up, count backwards from any number to zero. Make this fun by letting children pick a number from a bowl (you can put in numbers you want children to learn. For example, you might write numbers 4, 5, 6, 7). When the child chooses a number, he or she can read it, and then you tell children you are going to countdown from that number to zero. You can count slowly, in a squeaky voice, or a low voice, etc. to make it fun and different each time. This helps children hear the numbers as one is taken away as you countdown.
Additionally, engage children in counting down, too. Have them do this while they are on the playground, cleaning up, or even as they do the calendar. Count backwards from the current date to the first day of the month as you point at the numbers.
How Many Are Hidden:
Take a certain number of small objects like pennies or blocks. If you have 5 objects, show those objects to children. Have them count the objects and reinforce the number with them. Next hide a certain number, like 3, behind your back. Show children the remaining 2 objects. Ask them to figure out how many you are hiding. Continue to do this with different combinations. Then play the game with other numbers.
We suggest sending this fun and easy math game home for families to play with children. It is a valuable activity to encourage mathematical thought about subtraction.
NAEYC - 2.F.02 - 2.F.13.
Head Start - X. A., B., D., & E.