Fun Subtraction Games for Kids

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Explore problem-solving skills with a simple number story problem. A math video to help support your child in understanding the basic concept of subtraction and how to apply mathematical skills in real life contexts. Help your child progress and develop their number, mathematical and subtraction skills.

More Basic Subtraction Videos.

Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; are the different mathematical operations that we all know about and which are considered the initial steps that children take when learning maths.

The focus here is on subtraction – or taking away as some people tend to refer to it – subtraction goes through several levels of difficulty: there are the initial levels which are taught to the kids, and there are those with a little bit of difficulty regarding the questions of math, and finally, there are those which might be combined with other mathematical equations that need to be solved (Inverse Operations).

There are different ways that parents could use and depend on to teach their kids how to subtract, and this will always depend on their age, but we could say that they will all fall in love with these different techniques since most of them are done and played with their favourite toys.

In this educational video, we focus the learning on subtraction and letting them know how to subtract by using their toys, such as the Lego pieces, and the small character toys they have, they could also learn through counting on their fingers and hands – the methods could keep getting more creative according to the parent and how far he/she goes with their minds, they should make sure that the method is working with their kids and that they are really learning something from it (Counting Games).

In this video, Michelle depended on different ways to educate James how to subtract, she started with having the small character toys and counting them then removing from them and asking how much are left there, she then went on to the point of using Lego and asking James to count the pieces while they are placed on one another then removed one and asked him to count once again and tell her what is the answer of this subtraction equation.

She moved on to the point of using the ordinary way of writing on a whiteboard and asking James to remove from the shapes drawn according to the mathematical questions she tends to ask, and she also used the counting thing on the fingers to let him understand that sometimes a little bit of help is needed.

The more the lesson is perceived as a challenging thing for the kid to answer, the more he/she will manage to understand the lesson, get along with it and learn how subtraction should be done and how could they solve their subtraction mathematical equations and problems (Lego Math Games).

The most important thing to consider when you are teaching your kid something related to math is to focus on one lesson only before moving on to the next one and never mix between two different lessons until you make sure that they have totally taken in the one before. Don’t mix between addition and subtraction for example until your kids know how to add alone then how to subtract alone, then you could mix the lesson for them (Play-Doh).

Subtraction Games
Subtraction Game for kids

Enjoy Subtraction with Math Games

There are some mental math tricks for kids that parents homeschooling their children could try and these could be checked on those different links: Mental Math for Kids, Subtraction for Kids, and Mental Math Tricks for Kids.

There is always something to teach your kid and there is always one method that is considered much more effective for your kid than the other or the one which they will find easier for them to learn from and depend on, so already try a couple of ones to give their minds the chance to depend on a couple of methods and even use to make sure that the answer they got from the first one is correct.

Now, do your kids know how to subtract correctly? Do they know the different methods which they could depend on and which could be done through their playing toys? Could they solve a subtraction equation?

Math is easy when one learns its initial steps the right way! Enjoy watching this video about subtraction with your kids and let us hear back from you about the feedback and how it all turned out to be!

Subtraction Card Games: A Twist on Classics

Card games are a timeless way for kids to learn and have fun. Let’s inject some subtraction magic into classic games like Go Fish and Memory!

1. Subtraction Go Fish:


Standard deck of cards (remove face cards for younger children)

Pen and paper (optional)


Deal 5-7 cards to each player. Place the remaining deck face down in the center.

On your turn, ask another player, “Do you have a [number] to make [difference]?” (e.g., “Do you have a 7 to make 3?”).

If they do, take their card and discard a card from your hand. If not, they say “Go Fish!” and you draw a card from the deck.

Continue taking turns asking and collecting cards to make subtraction pairs that equal a specific difference you choose. You can choose different differences each round or stick to one.

The first player to collect all the cards of a chosen difference wins the round. Play multiple rounds until everyone has had a chance to be the dealer.


Addition twist: Allow players to add cards together to reach the desired difference.

Multiple differences: Choose multiple differences and allow players to collect cards for any of them.

Points system: Award points for each subtraction pair collected and the player with the most points at the end wins.

2. Subtraction Memory:


Standard deck of cards (remove face cards for younger children)

Pen and paper (optional)


Shuffle the deck and deal all the cards face down on a grid.

Players take turns flipping over two cards at a time.

If the difference between the two cards equals a specific number you choose (e.g., 5), they keep the pair and get another turn. If not, they flip the cards back over and the next player goes.

Continue playing until all the cards have been matched.

The player with the most matching pairs wins the game.


Multiple differences: Choose multiple differences and allow players to collect pairs for any of them.

Time limit: Set a time limit for each player’s turn to add an element of challenge.

Themes: Use themed decks like animals or vehicles and match cards based on their numerical values.

Board Games with Subtraction Moves:

Here are some ideas for simple board games where players move based on solving subtraction problems:

Number Line Race:

Materials: Large number line (drawn on paper or commercially available), game pieces, die.

Gameplay: Players take turns rolling the die. They must subtract the rolled number from their current position on the number line and move their game piece accordingly. First player to reach the finish line wins.


Use two dice and subtract the sum of the rolls.

Add obstacles or bonus squares on the number line that require additional subtraction problems.

Play in teams and collaborate on solving problems.

Subtraction Squares:

Materials: Grid board with numbered squares, game pieces, die.

Gameplay: Players take turns rolling the die and subtracting the number from their current square. They must land on a square with the same difference. If no such square exists, they miss their turn. First player to reach a designated finish square wins.


Use two dice and subtract the sum of the rolls.

Color some squares differently, and landing on them requires solving a more complex subtraction problem.

Play on a circular board instead of a grid.

Monster Chase:

Materials: Board with a start and finish line, monster pawn, player pawns, die.

Gameplay: Players take turns rolling the die and subtracting the number from their current position. They move their pawns forward. Meanwhile, the monster pawn moves one square forward each turn. If a player lands on the same square as the monster, they return to the start. First player to reach the finish line wins.


Add additional monster pawns that move in different patterns.

Include power-up squares that allow players to jump ahead or slow down the monster.

Make the game cooperative, where players work together to reach the finish line before the monsters catch them.

Dice Games with Subtraction Targets:

Here are some ideas for dice games where players roll dice and subtract to reach a target score:

Subtraction Target:

Materials: Several dice (depending on desired difficulty), paper and pen to track scores.

Gameplay: Each player rolls all the dice at once. They must choose some of the dice and subtract their values to reach a target score (e.g., 10). Players score points based on the difficulty of the subtraction (e.g., 1 point for easy subtractions, 2 points for harder ones). Play continues until a player reaches a predetermined score or after a set number of rounds.


Use different target scores for each round.

Set a time limit for each player’s turn.

Allow players to use all the dice in their roll, but subtract points for exceeding the target score.

Dice Tower:

Materials: Several dice, cups or towers to roll them in, paper and pen to track scores.

Gameplay: Players take turns rolling two dice in their cups/towers. They reveal their rolls and subtract the smaller number from the larger one. They then add the difference to their running score. Play continues until a player reaches a predetermined score or after a set number of rounds.


Use one more die and subtract the smallest number from the sum of the other two.

Award bonus points for specific subtraction results (e.g., getting a difference of 5).

Play in teams and collaborate on solving the subtraction problems.

Fun Subtraction Games for Different Age Groups:

Preschool & Kindergarten (Ages 3-5):

Card Games:

Subtraction Fish: Use a deck with numbers 1-5. Players ask for cards to make pairs that add up to a target number (e.g., “Do you have a 3 to make 5?”). Simple addition reinforces subtraction concepts.

Number Matching Memory: Use pairs of cards with identical numbers. Flip two cards at a time. If the numbers differ by a specific amount (e.g., 1), keep the pair. Reinforces number recognition and subtraction relationships.

Board Games:

Counting Backwards Race: Use a large number line (1-10). Roll a die and move back that many spaces, counting out loud. First to reach the start wins. Introduces the concept of “taking away” and counting backwards.

Fruit Basket Toss: Label baskets with numbers 1-5. Roll a die and toss beanbags into the basket with the matching number minus the rolled value (e.g., roll 3, toss into 2 basket). Encourages counting and simple subtraction.

Dice Games:

Dice Subtraction: Roll one die. Players take turns saying a number less than the rolled value. First to say the correct answer wins the round. Simple subtraction practice.

Number Line Dice: Draw a number line 1-10. Roll two dice and subtract the smaller from the larger. Move a game piece that many spaces. First to reach the end wins. Introduces two-digit subtraction in a fun way.

Grades 1-3 (Ages 6-8):

Card Games:

Subtraction Go Fish: Use a standard deck (remove face cards). Players ask for cards to make pairs that subtract to a specific difference (e.g., “Do you have a 7 to make 3?”). Promotes mental math and strategic thinking.

Subtraction Concentration: Use cards with subtraction problems on one side and answers on the other. Flip two cards, match problem and answer, and keep the pair. Encourages memorization and fact fluency.

Board Games:

Number Line Chase: Use a longer number line (1-20). Roll two dice and subtract the sum from current position. Land on a square with the same difference. Introduces two-digit subtraction with movement.

Subtraction Squares: Label squares on a grid with numbers 1-20. Roll a die and subtract. Move to a square with that difference. Add obstacles or bonus squares for more challenge. Encourages strategic thinking and problem-solving.

Dice Games:

Subtraction Target: Roll three dice. Choose some dice and subtract their values to reach a target score (e.g., 15). Score points based on difficulty. Encourages mental math and strategic selection.

Dice Tower: Roll two dice in cups. Reveal and subtract the smaller number. Add the difference to your score. Play until reaching a target score. Introduces multi-step subtraction and quick mental calculations.

Storytelling with Subtraction: Fun and Engaging Math Adventures

Storytelling is a powerful tool to spark children’s imagination and solidify mathematical concepts. Let’s weave subtraction into fun narratives, using the games mentioned earlier as inspiration:

Story 1: Subtraction Go Fish with Pirate Polly:

Polly the pirate sets sail with a treasure chest full of gold coins (10). She encounters a friendly dolphin who wants to play a game. They play “Subtraction Go Fish,” where they need to collect pairs of coins that add up to 5. Polly helps the dolphin find 3 coins, leaving her with 7 gold pieces. They continue playing, sharing their treasure and learning subtraction along the way!

Reinforcement: This story emphasizes subtraction as “taking away” and introduces the concept of finding pairs that add up to a specific difference.

Encouragement: Ask children, “What other treasures could Polly share with the dolphin? How many coins would she have left if she gave away 2 more?”

Story 2: Number Line Race with Rocket Rex:

Rex the rocket is on a mission to reach the moon (20 spaces on a number line). He blasts off with full fuel (10 spaces). But along the way, he encounters meteor showers, needing to subtract spaces to avoid them. He dodges a shower (-3 spaces) and then another (-2 spaces). How many spaces does Rex have left to reach the moon?

Reinforcement: This story uses a visual representation (number line) to showcase subtraction as “moving back” and introduces multi-step subtraction.

Encouragement: Have children draw their own rocket’s journey, marking off spaces as they subtract fuel used for different tasks.

Story 3: Dice Tower Subtraction with Detective Dora:

Dora the detective is investigating a missing cookie case! She suspects the culprit took 3 cookies from a plate with 8. To gather clues, she plays “Dice Tower Subtraction.” She rolls the dice and subtracts the smaller number from the larger one (5 – 2 = 3). Could this be the missing number of cookies? She uses her subtraction skills to solve the mystery!

Reinforcement: This story introduces the concept of comparing numbers and using subtraction to identify differences, connecting it to real-life problem-solving.

Encouragement: Create your own mystery scenarios with missing objects or clues hidden behind subtraction problems. Let children use dice to “solve” the cases.

Subtraction Games,Subtraction LearningMole

FAQ about Fun Subtraction Games for Kids:

Q: What age group are these games suitable for?

A: The games are designed to be adaptable for different age groups. Some games are simpler and perfect for preschool and kindergarten children, while others offer more complexity for grades 1-3. You can easily adjust the difficulty level and concepts to match your child’s needs and learning stage.

Q: My child struggles with memorizing subtraction facts. Will these games help?

A: Absolutely! Many games involve repeated practice with subtraction problems in a fun and engaging way. This repetition can help build automaticity and improve memorization of basic facts. Additionally, the games encourage problem-solving and thinking strategies, which can further support understanding and application of subtraction concepts.

Q: How often should I play these games with my child?

A: Even short bursts of playing can be beneficial. Aim for 15-20 minutes a few times a week, or incorporate shorter games into your daily routine. The key is to keep it fun and engaging, avoiding pressure or lengthy sessions that can lead to frustration.

Q: Can I modify these games to make them more challenging?

A: Definitely! You can increase the difficulty by using larger numbers, introducing time limits, adding bonus challenges, or playing with multiple subtraction targets. Additionally, encourage your child to create their own variations and invent new games based on the same principles.

Q: Are there any online resources for subtraction games?

A: Yes, there are many educational websites and apps that offer interactive subtraction games for kids. However, the benefit of hands-on play with physical games cannot be underestimated. Consider combining both approaches for a well-rounded learning experience.

Conclusion: Making Subtraction Fun and Meaningful

Subtraction doesn’t have to be a chore! By incorporating these fun and engaging games into your child’s routine, you can transform learning into an adventure. Remember, the key is to make it relatable, interactive, and most importantly, fun! Encourage their creativity, celebrate their progress, and watch their confidence in subtraction grow with each game. Let’s turn subtraction into a positive experience that lays the foundation for future mathematical success!

Have you found this interesting? Why not check our articles about addition for kids: Mental Math StrategiesNumber Facts, and Addition for Kids.

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