Subtraction Mats! Maths Lesson



No it isn’t spelt wrong! In this lesson, students will use a deck of playing cards to generate subtraction problems (as opposed to worksheets) so that they can practice their skills. It will also teach students place value, as well as borroworing/renaming! **This is a great independent working activity. Mats can also be tweaked for addition too!

Australian Curriculum Links:

  • Recognise and explain the connection between addition and subtraction      (ACMNA054)
  • Apply place value to partition, rearrange and regroup numbers to at least tens of thousands to assist calculations and solve problems      (ACMNA073)
  • Solve simple addition and subtraction problems using a range of efficient mental and written strategies      (ACMNA030)
  • Select and apply efficient mental and written strategies and appropriate digital technologies to solve problems involving all four operations with whole numbers      (ACMNA123)


  1. Recap with your students a variety of strategies to solve subtractions problems (e.g. finding the difference. borrowing etc.)
  1. After recapping with students, explain how the subtraction mats work to the kids.

Instructions are as follows:

  1. Shuffle your deck of cards
  2. Place down a card in each of the squares (or whichever column you would like to go up to
  3. Make sure that the Minuend number (top row) is bigger than the subtrahend (bottom row). Fix this by swapping the cards over in their columns (eg. 132-314 change to 314-132!)** Students would almost never heard of minuend and subtrahend!
  4. Write out the subtraction sum you have made in your book or paper and complete the sum showing all workings out.

2. Students will now work in partners or independently generating a variety of problems.


  1. Get each student to show you how to calculate a subtraction sum using the deck of cards!

** Students will generally be engaged with this activity as it is a hands on way of completing subtraction!


      Anecdotal- Students can actually show you how to complete the sums with or without guidance.



  • Subtraction Mats template- Subtraction Mats
  • Deck of playing cards-Remove Jack, Queen, King, 10=0 and A=1



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