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8 Best Subtraction Games To Help Students Sharpen Their Math Skills

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Elementary students playing subtraction games on computers.

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Math skills all build on one another. Having a solid foundation is absolutely critical for success. 

Addition and subtraction are the beginning of that foundation. Lessons on subtraction begin in kindergarten, 1st grade or 2nd grade, depending on the curriculum that is being used in the classroom.

And there’s not just one way to teach subtraction. There are a variety of subtraction activities available that can help students understand the fundamentals of subtraction problems. Teachers may choose to use educational games, printable worksheets, or other activities in the classroom.

If you’re looking for some great recommendations for subtraction games, you’re in the right place! This article will discuss some of the top subtraction games teachers and parents can use in and outside the classroom for math practice.

Top 8 subtraction games to use in and out of the classroom

1. Prodigy Math

Prodigy Math is a great way for students to learn subtraction skills in an interactive format. This game primarily focuses on subtraction skills in the first grade and second grade levels. And then teaches more advanced math skills at higher levels. 

This fun game will allow students to engage with subtraction problems on-par with their grade level and current skills. 

As the game progresses and the student answers the problems correctly, the challenges may get harder. The game is always supporting the learner to further their knowledge. 

Teachers can easily set engaging subtraction assignments that require no grading and instantly get reports on each student’s progress. No extra work required!

Prodigy Math is also easy to translate into at home learning. It’s simple for students to log into their account at home and pick up right where they left off. 

Parents can join in on the learning process by tracking their child’s progress, giving them in-game rewards and getting access to extra learning materials like math videos.

2. Bowl & Subtract

Bowl & Subtract is a simple activity you can use in your classroom with just a math worksheet and a set of toy bowling pins.

On the math worksheet there should be simple single-digit subtraction problems. 

Using a set of 10 pins, students should set up the same number of pins as the first part of the problem. Then, they can bowl and knock down the number of pins in the second part of the problem. Finally, they will count how many pins are left up to get the answer. 

This is a great game to use for younger learners who are just getting started with subtracting. It helps the problems become easier to visualize. 

Bowl & Subtract is also an easy option for homeschool kids since it’s inexpensive and easy to recreate with other objects if you don’t own bowling pins.

3. Smash playdough to learn subtraction equations

It’s no secret that kids love playing with playdough at any age. It’s easy to use playdough as an interactive way to teach the fundamentals of subtraction and help students visualize subtraction problems.

Start by giving each student enough playdough to make multiple small balls. Then, students will have a subtraction equation in front of them and can smash the correct number of balls to get the correct answer.

This activity can be done by each student individually as they work through math problems. Or it can be played as a game with the whole class. Students can race to make the balls and smash the right number the fastest.

4. Cat Rescue Subtraction Game

Cat Rescue is an online game themed after cute cats, robots and crazy aliens. In the game, students protect cats throughout the city of Purrington while practicing their subtraction skills and battling alien spaceships.

Students will absolutely love this free subtraction game and be building their subtraction skills without even realizing it!

5. Jam Journey

Jam Journey is another online subtraction game which allows students to practice subtraction facts in a fun way.

The main character in the game, Hamish, needs jam for his gift. And he’s enlisted the player’s help to collect a variety of fruit to make this jam. Players need to use their subtraction skills in order to gather these fruits. 

This game is a great tool to use both in and out of the classroom to allow students to engage with learning material in a fun way.

6. LEGO Subtraction Race

LEGO Subtraction Race is an easy way to engage learners in the classroom. All you will need to complete this activity is some Lego bricks and a set of six-sided dice.

You can start by instructing students to stack a specific number of Lego bricks together. Each student will then take turns rolling the die and subtracting that number of lego bricks from their tower.

Teachers can set up this interactive activity as a race between students or there can be one really tall tower that the whole class works on taking down. 

Or yet another option is having teams of students race against each other to take down their towers. This option has the fun of a competition while still working on teamwork between students. 

7. Zipper bag number line

A zipper bag number line is an excellent subtraction activity that teachers can use over and over again. It is also fairly inexpensive and can be used for teaching addition and subtraction as well as multiplication and division.

Using a plastic zipper bag and an erasable expo marker, create a number line on the top of the bag. Then, slide in subtraction flash cards with different equations in the bag.

Students can use the number line to help them solve the equations and move on to a brand new equation by changing out the card once they get the correct answer.

The compact nature of this activity can make it an easy option for centers or independent learning time. 

Hint: if there’s a logo on your bags getting in the way, try using hand sanitizer to remove it.

8. Penalty Kick Subtraction

Penalty kick subtraction is a free online game that is always a hit when teaching subtraction skills. 

Players aim a soccer ball at the goal to try and score points. The goalkeeper will attempt to block the shots. After each shot, the student has to answer a subtraction equation correctly in order to score points.

This game is entirely free and easily accessible online.

Tips for teaching subtraction to your students

Subtraction is one of the fundamental building blocks in math, so it's important for students to grasp the concept early in their education. 

The best tip for teaching subtraction is to start with the basics and build on students’ skills only when they’ve mastered the previous concept.

It's important for students to first grasp the most basic understanding of subtraction – this includes learning what the minuend, subtrahend, and difference are in a subtraction equation. Now they may not remember those vocabulary words, but they need to know how the various parts of an equation function. 

When first introducing subtraction concepts, you should start with single digit addition and subtraction fact families. These quick and easy problems not only get students started with the basics but also help students feel empowered as they learn this difficult skill. 

Then, you can move onto larger place values and add in things like fractions or decimals when developmentally appropriate. It’s important not to introduce these challenges too early so that learners don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. 

Once you move onto two-digit subtraction, you can introduce skills like regrouping and solving word problems.

Following this path, your learner will know how to handle any subtraction problem before you know it! 

Engage your learners in subtraction and more with Prodigy Math

Like any new concept that is introduced, subtraction can be quite challenging for young students. However, there are a variety of learning games that can make subtraction more fun and interactive for young learners. 

No matter what resources you have available to you or what your learners need, there is a high-quality subtraction game out there that you can use. 

If you're looking to level up math practice for your student or child, try Prodigy!

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