Pinch a Penny

In this lesson, children will use a die to subtract pennies until the winner "breaks the bank."

Math Lesson for:

Toddlers/Preschoolers
(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Numbers and Operations

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates
  • Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Understanding the effects of adding and subtracting whole numbers
  • Developing and using strategies for whole-number computations, with a focus on addition and subtraction
  • Developing fluency with basic number combinations for addition and subtraction

Pinch a Penny

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Large supply of pennies
  • One die

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Explain to the children that today they are going to play a game called Pinch A Penny that will help them with their subtraction skills. Ask the children what it means to subtract.
  2. Once you have fielded a number of responses, tell the children what it means to subtractExplain that, in the game Pinch A Penny, players will be given a pile of pennies. One player will roll a die and take away that number of pennies from his/her pile. The first player to lose all of his/her pennies “breaks the bank” and wins.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Start with an equal amount of pennies for each player. Have the first player roll the die. Have the player take away that amount of pennies from his/her pile. Encourage the children to talk about what they are doing as they take their turns. Model how to talk aloud. For example, say: “You rolled a four. You have 10 pennies and you must take away four pennies. How many pennies do you have left?” (Six) “Yes, you have six pennies left. Now it is the next player’s turn.”
  2. The first player to lose all of his/her pennies “breaks the bank” and wins.
  3. If a player has three pennies and rolls a six, then that player skips a turn. The player must be able to take away some pennies from his/her pile in order to successfully complete a turn. If a player cannot do this (cannot take six away from three, for example), then the next player takes a turn.

Additional Extensions

  • With continued subtraction practice, add more pennies to the players’ piles. If needed, you may also add another die so that the players are playing with a large amount of pennies and a pair of dice instead of a single die.
  • Make a recording sheet for the players to record their mathematical thinking.
    I started out with ______________ pennies in my pile.
    I rolled a _______________.
    ________ – __________ = _______.
    Now I have _______________ pennies.

Repeat this several times so that the children have an opportunity to record all of their moves.

Step 4: Teach math vocabulary.

  • Subtract: Take one quantity away from another (e.g.,”You have nine pennies and you rolled a four. You will subtract four from nine. How many pennies will you have left?”)
  • Take away: To remove something (e.g.,”One player will roll a die and take away that number of pennies from his/her pile.”)
  • How many: The total or sum (e.g.,“You rolled a four. You have 10 pennies and you must take away four pennies. How many pennies do you have left?”)
  • Remain: Amount left over (e.g., “You rolled a four. You have 10 pennies and you must take away four pennies. How many pennies remain?”)

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not yet be familiar with subtraction
  • Possess number recognition but cannot yet add or subtract
Home child care providers may:
  • Have the children use a pile of 10 or fewer pennies
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Have a working concept of subtraction
Home child care providers may:
  • Add more pennies to the players’ piles. If needed, you may also add another die so that the players are playing with a large amount of pennies and a pair of dice instead of a single die.
  • Make a recording sheet for the players to record their mathematical thinking.

I started out with ______________ pennies in my pile.
I rolled a _______________.
________ – __________ = _____________.
Now I have _______________ pennies

Repeat this several times so that the children have an opportunity to record all of their moves.

Suggested Books

  • Subtraction Action by Loreen Leedy (New York: Holiday House, 2002)
  • Hersey Kisses Subtraction Book by Jerry Pallotta (New York: Cartwheel, 2002)
  • Ten Sly Piranhas by William Wise (New York: Puffin, 2004)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Play Target Take Away.  meaningfulmama.com/2012/07/day-210-target-take-away-subtraction.html   Target Take Away is a game that teaches the basic principles of subtraction. Use pebbles as counters and a frisbee for the children to throw at the target. You can use anything to count: beans, balls, marbles, pennies, paper clips, etc. You can also use anything to throw: a ring, pennies, a paper clip, a rock, etc. Start with 10 of something. The goal is to get rid of all of the units. The children take turns, and whatever number they land on is the number that they get to take away from what they have. If the object doesn’t land on the target or it lands directly on the line, the player gets another toss. Have the children talk about what is happening throughout the game. For example: “You had six and now you have to take away three. How many do you have now? Oh, so 6-3 is 3?” The object of the game is to have the children get rid of their items by the direct number. So, if a player has five left but lands on eight, that player wouldn’t be able to take anything away.

Web Resources

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