Subtraction: count back/take away

Maths Year 1
This unit is part of Year 1 Flexible Maths Blocks Addition and Subtraction and Year 1 Maths Planning Addition and Subtraction (A)

Planning and Activities

Day 1 Teaching
Draw faces on a bus on a w/b. Model how we subtract by counting back when 1 or 2 get off the bus. There are 7 on the bus and 2 get off. 7, 6, 5. We count back 2. Record 7 – 2 = 5. Repeat.
Group activities
-- Work out how many dogs are left in the rescue centre and how many people are left on the bus.

Day 2 Teaching
Show 5 red & 5 yellow pegs on a hanger. How many pegs? Children put up 10 fingers. Remove 1 peg. Children fold 1 finger. How many are left? What number sentence can we write? Repeat.
Group activities
Use the 'Spot the Difference' in-depth problem-solving investigation below as today’s group activity.
Or use these activities:
-- Make a tower of cubes and take away the number on the dice. Record the number sentence.

Day 3 Teaching
Show 5 beads on a 20-bead bar. Count on 2, saying 6, 7 as you slide beads. Children mimic on fingers. Record 5 + 2 = 7. How many if we take 2 beads away? Put the 2 beads back. Children fold 2 fingers. We are back where we started!
Group activities
-- Work out how much money is left when a child spends some and then earns some back.
-- Explore the relationship between adding and subtracting.

Day 4 Teaching
Count 5 cubes into a tin and ask how many. Drop another cube in. And now? Repeat. And now? Record addition. Take out 2 cubes, 1 by 1. How many now? Record subtraction. Repeat.
Group activities
Use the 'Spot the Difference' in-depth problem-solving investigation below as today’s group activity.
Or use these activities:
-- Game with towers of cubes. Taking away and adding numbers to see who can reach 10 or 0 cubes the first!

Day 5 Teaching
Show a word problem about dogs in a rescue centre. Model how to solve this using fingers or cubes. Write a matching calculation and repeat with other stories.
Group activities
-- Practical number stories using equipment to work them out and creating leaf posters to show the number sentences.

You Will Need

  • Picture of a bus drawn on large paper
  • Pictures of dogs (see resources).
  • Pictures of buses - differentiated (see resources).
  • Dice labelled with digits 1, 2.
  • 5 red pegs and 5 yellow pegs.
  • Coat hanger.
  • Number cards 1-5, 5-10 & 5-15.
  • Dice labelled with digits 2, 3.
  • 20-bead bar.
  • 20-bead strings.
  • 10 £1 coins.
  • Cubes.
  • Hat/tin
  • Large dice labelled +1, +2, +2, –1, –2 and –2.
  • Multilink & other counting resources.

Mental/Oral Maths Starters

Day 1
Count back (pre-requisite skills)

Suggested for Day 2
Counting (simmering skills)

Day 3
Count back 2 (pre-requisite skills)

Suggested for Day 4
Bonds to 5 (simmering skills)

Suggested for Day 5
Numbers to 20 (simmering skills)


Day 1
How many frogs on the lily pads when some hop into the pond?
Work out the number of passengers on a bus.

Day 2
Challenge to work out how tall the tower is after cubes have fallen off.

Day 3
Use bead-bars to subtract. Draw beads to show the number sentence and work out the answer.

Day 4
Add or subtract the number of petals to find the total.

Day 5
Work out dog rescue story problems.

Mastery: Reasoning and Problem-Solving

  • Set up using small world play equipment.
    There are 7 ducks in the pond. If 2 get out, how many are left?
    Write a matching number sentence.
    If 3 more get in, how many ducks are on the pond?
    Write a matching number sentence.
    If 2 get out, how many are left on the pond?
    Write a matching number sentence.
  • Draw a number track from 1 to 10. Place your counter on a number. Write it. Now hop along 2. Where do you end up? Write the addition. Repeat.
  • More challenging
    Write the missing numbers:
    7 – 3 = ☐
    5 + ☐ = 6
    ☐ + 2 = 5

In-depth Investigation: Spot the Difference
Children find dominoes where one side has one more spot than the other, and then where one side has two more spots than the other.

Extra Support

What's Before Beryl?
Saying the number before any number up to 6, then 10

Dig for Acorns
Subtracting 1 from any number from 2 to 6, and then from 2 to 10, by saying the number which comes before