EL Support Lesson

Monster Subtraction

Students will love pretending to be monsters as they get creative when solving subtraction equations. It can be used as a stand-alone or support lesson for the lesson plan How Many Slices Are Left?
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theHow Many Slices Are Left?Lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theHow Many Slices Are Left?Lesson plan.
  • Students will be able to solve subtraction problems using numbers 0–5.
  • Students will be able to show how to solve a subtraction problem using acting to represent the problem.
(2 minutes)
Teach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceVocabulary Cards: Monster SubtractionGlossary: Monster Subtraction
  • Gather the class together for a read-aloud.
  • Hold up the book Monster Musical ChairsAnd go on a brief picture walk to preview the story.
(8 minutes)
  • Read the story aloud, pausing throughout to notice how the number of monsters able to play the game is getting smaller on each page.
  • Using the chairs in the story and the vocabulary cards and glossary (as needed) introduce the word SubtractionAs taking something away from something else.
  • Ask, "What happened to the chairs on each page of the story?" Explain that on each page, one chair was removed, so there were less chairs. Another way to say this is that one chair was subtracted on each page because it was taken away.
  • Write up an equation from the beginning of the story 6 – 1 = 5On the board and explain that this is how we write a subtraction number sentence. Model how to read it aloud: "Six minus one equals five."
  • Model solving the subtraction problem using interlocking unit cubes to show how to take one away. Count the remaining cubes to find the remainder.
  • Briefly explain the difference between addition and subtraction using a model addition problem.
(10 minutes)
  • Read the story again, inviting the students to read along with you (emphasizing the repetitive language).
  • Pause on each page to write a number sentences to match the page (e.g., "10 – 1 = 9").
(10 minutes)
  • Create two or three circles of chairs to fit all of your students (make sure each group has 10 or less chairs).
  • Explain that you will be playing music and the students will get to pretend to be the monsters in the story.
  • Review the rules for musical chairs (dance and walk around the circle while music plays, find a seat when music stops, no shoving/pushing).
  • Play one round at a time. After each round, have the students help you write up an equation to go with the game (e.g., 10 – 1 = 9). Invite students to read (or repeat) the equation aloud to practise using the mathematical vocabulary.
  • Repeat this until each group only has one person left. Then combine groups until you have one person.


  • Provide students with subtraction work mats and unit cubes to set up and solve each problem.
  • Work with students in a smaller group to practise reading and solving each.


  • Put students into groups of 5 and have them play musical chairs on their own. Encourage them to pause after each round to write matching equations on personal whiteboards.
  • Ask students to share with a peer how to solve each of the problems.
(3 minutes)
  • Ask guiding questions throughout the lesson to assess understanding (e.g., "How many are we subtracting?" "How many chairs are left?" "How can we check?").
  • Take pictures of students playing the game and have students match the pictures to a pre-written equation to assess their understanding.
  • Create a classroom learning wall to display pictures, quotes, and equations in order to capture and reflect on student learning.
(2 minutes)
  • Gather the students back together.
  • Ask students to turn and talk to share ideas of other games to practise subtraction skills.
  • If time allows, play one last round of musical chairs as a whole group.

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