Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation



Monkey Mania

Children will use subtraction by acting out the words to the accompanying book and song.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Number and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another
  • Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates
  • Analyze change in various contexts
  • Understand subtraction
  • Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers and drawings, etc.
  • Develop and use strategies for adding and subtracting
Increase your knowledge
Print this lesson (PDF file)
Share with parents (Word DOC)
Comment on this lesson
Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Dry erase/chalkboard, easel with paper to record numerical sentences and the children’s mathematical thinking.
  • Markers
  • The book Ten Little Monkeys: Jumping on the Bed by Annie Kubler 
  • The song “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” –
  • 10 Unifix Cubes


Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
  1. Explain to the children that today they are going to be monkeys learning about subtraction. 
  2. Say: "We will be monkeys jumping on a bed.”
  3. Ask questions about subtraction.  For example: “When I say subtraction, what do I mean?”,  “What about take away?  Is that the same as subtract?”  It is important that your vocabulary is consistent.  When introducing subtraction, stick with “take away” for subtraction operations.  Much of what you will be modeling and working with when subtracting will involve the action of “taking” an object “away” from a larger group, resulting in a smaller group of objects.  Use the answers children give to generate more questions.  Jot down their ideas about subtraction on your easel, the big paper you are using to record the children’s mathematical thinking.
  4. Model what subtraction might look like. For example, using your fingers, hold up all 10 of your fingers.  Say: “I am holding up 10 fingers.  What if I subtract or take away 3 fingers?”  Tuck 3 of your fingers behind your palm.  Say: “How many fingers are left?”  Show the children your remaining outstretched fingers. Say: “Let’s count how many fingers are left?”  “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.  Yes, seven fingers are left.” Say: “So we can say that if we have 10 fingers take away 3 fingers, equals 7 fingers.  Is this correct?” Solicit answers and write the following number sentence, 10-3=7 on your sheet of paper.
  5. Ask the children to solve one or two subtraction problems as a group, using their fingers.  Provide the number sentence using 10 fingers and then various numbers to subtract.  Write down, and represent their answers and the number questions you asked on the piece of paper.
  6. Introduce the book, Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the BedSay: “Look at the cover.  Do you see all those monkeys on the bed?  Let’s count all the monkeys
    on the bed.”  Note: Each monkey has a number on their shirt so it is easy to keep track of all 10 monkeys. Say: “What do you think is going to happen?”  It is likely that many of the children know this song and will know the next lyric or line in the book.  That is okay.  When reading the book, you will want to rephrase what happens by asking how many monkeys are remaining on the bed after one falls off.
  7. Read the book.  Pause and ask questions after a monkey falls out of the bed. For example: Read: “Eight little monkeys jumping on the bed, one falls off and bumps his head. Momma calls the doctor and the doctor says, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”’ Then, ask, before turning the page, “NOW, how many monkeys are jumping on the bed?” The next page in the book will validate their answers.  Keep track of the numerical equations that you are asking on the big, chart paper or dry erase board.
  8. Show the children how they are thinking in a numerical context and have them begin to connect number sentences with the subtraction that they are doing throughout the book. For example, after you read the first sequence in the book, “10 monkeys……..”, and you ask the children how many monkeys are remaining after 1 monkey fell off the bed, the number sentence that should accompany that operation is 10-1=9.
  9. Write out the subtraction problems that accompany each verse of the book.
    10 - 1= ________
     9 - 1 = ________
     8 - 1 = ________
     7 - 1 = ________
     6 - 1 = ________
     5 - 1 = ________
     4 - 1 = ________
     3 - 1 = ________
     2 - 1 = ________
     1 - 1 = ________
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Provide the children with an opportunity to bounce around and act like monkeys!
  2. Act out the song.  Have 10 children stand up and as each “monkey” bumps their head, have that child sit down.  The children can also pretend to be on the phone when “Mama calls the doctor.”
  3. Represent the mathematical operation by starting off the song with 10 Unifix Cubes and detaching one cube for each monkey that falls off the bed.
  4. Extend the children’s vocabulary and the underlying mathematical operation that is being utilized by reinforcing the subtraction involved.  When reading the book or singing the song, after the children complete a verse, restate the verse in numerical terms.  “8 monkeys were jumping on the bed, one fell off.  8 take away 1 equals 7.”  If possible, point to the numerical sentences on the board while you are reinforcing the number sentences.

Additional Extensions

  • Children create a book that represents the mathematical work they have been singing and reading about.  Have a pre-fabricated book prepared with the lyrics of the song on each page.  Leave enough space so that the children can represent the mathematical thinking that is taking place with either symbols, number sentences or both. 
  • Give each child their own set of 10 Unifix cubes.  Start with 10 cubes indicating to the children that each cube represents a monkey. As each monkey “falls off the bed”, have the child detach one Unifix cube.  Have a designated place for the child to put the monkeys that have fallen off the bed.  Ask questions throughout the song. Ask: “If we now have 4 monkeys jumping on the bed, how many monkeys are on the floor?”  Using the Unifix cubes, compare the monkeys that have fallen off of the bed to those monkeys jumping on the bed.
  • Use fingers.  Counting on fingers helps children understand the amount that is being represented by each number. Sing the song and have the children show how many monkeys remain with their fingers.  Stop after each verse so that the children have an opportunity to display the correct number of fingers on each hand.
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Take Away – To remove something (e.g., "When we subtract, we take away.")
  • How many – The total or sum (e.g., "How many monkeys are jumping on the bed?")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not have one-to–one correspondence.
  • Not be able to sit in a circle listening to others for an extended period of time.
  • Not be able to count beyond 5.
  • Not yet recognize numbers.
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Be able to work with numbers higher than 10.
  • May not be able to count backwards.

Home child care providers may:

  • Provide assistance when children are counting, helping them with one-to-one correspondence.
  • Modify the song to “5 Little Monkeys.” –
  • Read the book, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
  • Encourage repetition.  Children love this song and book.  Repetition helps to reinforce and solidify the mathematical concept of subtraction.


Home child care providers may:

  • Allow children to create their own story of monkey mania starting with 20, or 15, or 12.
  • Encourage children to learn to count backwards from 10 just like they do when a rocket ship blasts off.


Books Books
  • 10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Annie Kubler (Auburn, ME: Childs Play Intl. Ltd, 2001)
  • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Christelow Eileen (New York: Clairon Books, Houghton Milllin, 1998)
  • 5 Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow (New York: Clairon Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005)
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • This activity can easily be done outdoors in any type of weather.  Change the words to the song  “10 Little Monkeys Jumping in the snow etc.” or “10 Little Monkeys Jumping in a Pile of leaves etc.”
  • Use natural manipulatives such as a branch or stick with leaves.  For example: “5 little leaves are hanging on a tree" or “5 little rocks are sitting on a log.”


Explore links Web Resources
  • “Color Subtraction” Children have fun as they color the pictures while developing and practicing their subtraction skills. 




Empty speech bubbleComment on this lesson




To report a problem with the site, please email us.

© 2011. M.A.T.H.