Addition & Subtraction

Big Fish Story

Visible Ocean

Provide each child with fish counters, a picture of the ocean, and a small pond (plate). Children take turns drawing a number card to determine how many fish to bring into the ocean (addition) or how many will be eaten by the shark (subtraction). After drawing a card, children move the fish to their checking plate, then their partner checks to make sure they moved the correct number. Both children then move the fish from their checking plate to the ocean or shark. Children figure out how many fish are in their oceans now. The other child draws a card and play continues.

Primary Objective

  • Counting on from a number other than 1 (e.g., counting on from 3 to 5).
  • Counting backward from any number (e.g., counting down from 6 to 4).
  • Developing a beginning understanding of the connection between counting and addition/subtraction.

How to Use

If most of your children are able to count forward or back from a number other than one without support and demonstrate a knowledge of number combinations adding up to five or more, they might be ready for the Hidden Ocean version of this activity.

Materials


Steps of the Activity

The activity steps icons below outline the steps of the activity. Print these icons as cards and share them to help children remember the steps. They’re also a helpful scaffold for children!

Find a sample script for teachers to use here.


Set Up

Step 1

Teacher chooses a starting number of fish from the bowl and shows the corresponding Counting Card and places that many fish in their ocean.

Step 2

Teacher asks child, “Am I right?” Child checks.

Step 3

Plus/Minus cards are placed facedown and a child selects one card.
Steps: ADDITION

Step 1

Children state how many fish are to be added based on the Plus/Minus card selected (e.g., +1).

Step 2

Teacher “jumps” that many fish from the bowl and into the checking pond (small plate).

Step 3

Teacher asks child, “Am I right?” Child checks.

Step 4

Teacher “jumps” their fish from the checking pond into the ocean.

Step 5

Children think-pair-share with a partner about how many fish are in the ocean now and how they know.
Steps: SUBTRACTION

Step 1

Children state how many fish are to be subtracted based on the Plus/Minus card selected (e.g., -1).

Step 2

Teacher “jumps” that many fish from the ocean and into the checking pond.

Step 3

Teacher asks child, “Am I right?” Child checks.

Step 4

Teacher “jumps” their fish from the checking pond into the shark’s mouth.

Step 5

Children think-pair-share with a partner about how many fish are in the ocean now and how they know.
Instructions

Instructions for introducing the activity to the Whole Group

Introduce the Activity

We are going to pretend to be sharks that eat the little fish! Okay, let’s all pretend to be BIG sharks and swim in the water.

Here is our shark that we’ll use for this game!

Have children move their arms to pretend they’re swimming, or something similar.

 

Show children the shark box.

Now, these fish are so little they can’t swim very far. So, when they want to go in the ocean or leave the ocean, they have to go into the pond first.

Have the ocean image visible to children. Put the fish into the small bowl; show the fish as you talk about them. The small plate serves as the “pond”; model moving one fish from the bowl to the “pond”.

Model the Activity

Let’s try it!

First, let’s see how many fish are going to be in our ocean to start.

Point to the first step icon card.

Show a counting card indicating the number of starting fish (3).

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: if children struggle starting the game with 3 fish, start with a smaller number.
  • EF: use the Step Icon cards.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: start the game with a larger number (>3) of fish.
  • EF: omit the Step Icon cards.

Three! We’ll put three fish in our ocean. Count with me. 1, 2, 3. 3!

Count as you put three fish onto the ocean board.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • EF: Use a counting card to label the number of fish children have in their ocean to help them remember.

Am I right?

Point to the second step icon card.

Point to each fish in the ocean while children count, “1, 2, 3… 3!”

Now, we pick a card to find out if more fish are going to swim into our ocean or be eaten by the shark!

Point to the third step icon card.

Pick a Plus/Minus card from the stack. You can decide on an operation (addition or subtraction) and a number ahead of time based on children’s skills.

Go to the addition steps or subtraction steps section depending on what card was picked.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math & EF: focus on addition only (include only addition cards).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: focus on addition and subtraction (include both addition and subtracting cards).

ADDITION STEPS

Plus 2! That means two more fish swim into our ocean. But remember, these fish are so little they can’t swim very far. So they have to swim into the pond first.

Point to the fourth ADDITION step icon card.

Show the +2 Plus/Minus card.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: add only one fish at a time.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: add more fish, for example, 2, 3, or more fish.

Introduce terms such as sum and plus and minus.

Two fish swam into our pond.

Point to the fifth ADDITION step icon card.

Put two fish on the checking plate (“pond”).

Let’s count to make sure we have two. Count with me!

Am I right?

Point to the sixth ADDITION step icon card.

Point to each fish on the checking plate while children count, “1, 2… 2!”

Now our fish are going to jump into our ocean!

Point to the seventh ADDITION step icon card.

Move the two fish from the plate to the ocean.

Now we figure out—How many fish are in our ocean now? Think-Pair-Share with your partner.

Point to the eighth ADDITION step icon card.

Children Think-Pair-Share with a partner to determine how many fish are in the ocean now.

MAKE IT EASIER

MAKE IT HARDER

  • EF: omit the Think-Pair-Share cards.
  • Math & EF: have children articulate exactly what mathematics they performed—including what they started with, what they added, and the result.

We started with three fish, then two more swam into the ocean, so now we have five fish in our ocean!

Verbalize the starting number and the number added.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: if the starting number gets too high for children after play has begun, simply remove all the fish and restart with zero.
  • Math & EF: use a number path (0-5, 0-10, or 0-20, depending on children). Mark the initial number with a chip. “Jump” your finger to visually demonstrate adding.

Model counting (with fish, counters, or fingers), keeping the two parts separate (the starting set and the part added).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: ask prompting questions throughout the activity (e.g., “You have 3 fish, but want 6. How many more do you need? Or how many more do you need to add?”).

SUBTRACTION STEPS

Oh no! The shark is hungry! Let’s find out how many fish it’s going to eat…

Point to the third step icon card.

Select one card from the Plus/Minus cards.

REMEMBER… if children are not yet ready for subtraction, stick with addition only.

He gets to eat one fish! Show me your shark mouths!

Point to the fourth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Flip over the -1 Plus/Minus card. You can decide on the number ahead of time based on children’s counting skills.

Have children move their arms to pretend they’re sharks.

NOTE: If the number being subtracted is too large for the number of fish left in the ocean, choose another plus/minus card, saying something such, “Oh, no! Our card says the shark is going to eat three fish, but we only have two fish left. We don’t have that many fish in our ocean. Let’s pick another card.”

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: subtract only one fish at a time.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: Subtract more fish, for example, 2, 3, or more fish.

Introduce terms such as minus and difference.

Let’s take one fish from the ocean and put it in the pond.

Point to the fifth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Move one fish from the ocean to the checking plate.

Let’s make sure we have only one.

Am I right?

Point to the sixth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Watch! One fish jumps into the shark’s mouth! Count with me. 1…1. The shark is so happy!

Point to the seventh SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Move the fish from the checking plate to the shark’s mouth. Encourage children to count with you.

Now we figure out—How many fish are in our ocean now? Think-Pair-Share with your partner.

Point to the eighth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Children Think-Pair-Share with a partner to determine how many fish are in the ocean now.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: Have children articulate exactly what mathematics they performed—including what they started with, what they subtracted, and the result.

We had five fish, then the hungry shark ate one. Now, we have four fish in our ocean!

Verbalize the starting number and the number subtracted.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math & EF: use a number path (0-5, 0-10, or 0-20, depending on children). Mark the initial number with a chip. “Jump” your finger to visually demonstrate subtracting.

model counting (with fish, counters, or fingers), keeping the two parts separate (the starting set and the part removed).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: Ask prompting questions throughout the activity (e.g., “You have 4 fish, but want 2. How many more do you need to take away (or subtract)?

Let’s play some more!

Keep playing, adding and subtracting fish as time allows.

What to do next

On a future day, do the activity in Small Group

Are some students ready for more challenge? Try the adaptations provided above. Want even more challenge? For children who are able to count forward or back from a number other than one without support and demonstrate a knowledge of number combinations to five or more, introduce the Hidden Ocean version. 

If most of your children are able to count forward or back from a number other than one without support and demonstrate a knowledge of number combinations to five or more, they might be ready for the Hidden Ocean version.

Materials


Steps of the Activity

For small groups, we suggest four children arranged in pairs of two with a teacher present to provide guidance. The activity steps icons below outline the steps of the activity. Print these icons as cards and share them to help children remember the steps. They’re also a helpful scaffold for children!

Find a sample script for teachers to use here.


Set Up

Step 1

Teacher chooses a starting number of fish and shows the corresponding Counting Card and all children place that many fish in their oceans.

Step 2

Children ask their partners, “Am I right?” Children check one another.

Step 3

Plus/Minus cards are placed facedown and a child selects one card (choose different children to select a card for each round). All children add/subtract the same number of fish based on the plus/minus card drawn.
Addition

Step 1

Children state how many fish are to be added or subtracted based on the Plus/Minus card selected (e.g., +1).

Step 2

Children “jump” that many fish from their bowl and into their checking pond (small plate).

Step 3

Children ask their partners, “Am I right?” Children check one another.

Step 4

Children “jump” their fish from their checking pond into their ocean.

Step 5

Children think-pair-share with their partner about how many fish are in the ocean now and how they know.
Subtraction

Step 1

Children state how many fish are to be added or subtracted based on the Plus/Minus card selected (e.g., +1).

Step 2

Children “jump” that many fish from their ocean and into their checking pond.

Step 3

Children ask their partners, “Am I right?” Children check one another.

Step 4

Children “jump” their fish from the checking pond into the shark’s mouth.

Step 5

Children think-pair-share with their partner about how many fish are in the ocean now and how they know.
Instructions

Instructions for introducing the activity to the Small Group

Introduce the Activity

We are going to pretend to be sharks that eat the little fish! Okay, let’s all pretend to be BIG sharks and swim in the water.

Here is our shark that we’ll use for this game!

Have children move their arms to pretend they’re swimming, or something similar.

Show children the shark box.

Remember, these fish are so little they can’t swim very far. So, when they want to go in the ocean or leave the ocean, they have to go into the pond first.

Provide each child with a bowl with approximately 10 fish, 1 small plate (“pond”), and 1 ocean board. Have one shark box in the middle of the table for all children to share.

Model the Activity

Let’s give it a try with your own oceans! How many fish are in your oceans now?

Allow children to say out loud or echo back, “zero”. Correct children as needed.

First, let’s see how many fish are going to be in our ocean to start.

Point to the first step icon card.

Show a counting card indicating the number of starting fish (3).

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: if children struggle starting the game with three fish, start with a smaller number. 
  • EF: use the Step Icon cards.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: start the game with a larger number (>3) of fish.
  • EF: omit the Step Icon cards.

Three! Everyone put three fish into your oceans.

Have all children place 3 fish in their oceans. Check to make sure all children have the correct number before continuing.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • EF: Use a counting card to label the number of fish children have in their ocean to help them remember.

Now, everyone ask your partner, “Am I right?” Partners, you check to make sure your friend has the right number of fish in their ocean.

Point to the second step icon card.

Encourage children to check each other, correcting as necessary.

How many fish are in your oceans now?

Encourage children to respond.

Remember, you are big sharks and we are going to use these cards to help us find out if more fish are going to swim into the ocean or into the shark’s belly!

Point to the third and fourth ADDITION and SUBTRACTION step icon cards as you mention fish going into the ocean or being eaten by the shark, respectively.

But remember, these fish are so little they can’t swim very far. So they have to swim into the pond first, then our partner helps us check to make sure we have the right number.

Point to the fifth and sixth ADDITION & SUBTRACTION step icon cards as you describe each step.

Then, we’ll put the fish into the pond and then into the ocean or the shark.

Point to the seventh ADDITION & SUBTRACTION step icon cards as you describe this step.

Then, we’ll check to figure out how many fish we have left in our oceans.

Point to the eighth ADDITION & SUBTRACTION step icon cards as you describe this step.

Finally, we’ll pick another card and start again.

Point to the third step icon cards as you describe this step.

 

Time to Play!

Okay, everyone has three fish in your oceans. Let’s pick a card to figure out how many fish we’ll put into your oceans or feed to the shark!

Point to the fourth step icon card.

Pick a Plus/Minus card.

Go to the addition steps or subtraction steps depending on which card was picked.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math & EF: Focus on addition only (include only addition cards).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: Focus on addition and subtraction (include both addition and subtracting cards).

ADDITION STEPS

Plus 1! That means one more fish is going to swim into your ocean. But remember, these fish are so little they can’t swim very far. So they have to swim into the pond first. 

Everyone put one fish in your pond.

Point to the fifth ADDITION step icon card.

Show the +1 Plus/Minus card

 

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: add only one fish at a time.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: add more (for example, two, three, or more) fish.

Or introduce terms such as sum and plus.

Now, everyone ask your partner, “Am I right?” Partners, you check to make sure your friend has the right number of fish in their pond.

Point to the sixth ADDITION step icon card.

Encourage children to check each other, correcting as necessary.

Now your fish are going to jump into your oceans!

Point to the seventh ADDITION step icon card.

Have children move the fish from their plates to their oceans.

How many fish are in your ocean now? How do you know?

Point to the eighth ADDITION step icon card.

Children Think-Pair-Share with a partner to determine how many fish are in their oceans now.

MAKE IT EASIER

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: have children articulate exactly what mathematics they performed—including what they started with, what they added, and the result.
  • EF: omit the Think-Pair-Share cards.

You started with three fish, then one more swam into your ocean, so now you have four fish in our oceans!

Verbalize the starting number and the number added.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: If the starting number gets too high for children after play has begun, simply remove all of the fish to restart with 0.
  • Math & EF: Use a number path (0-5, 0-10, or 0-20 depending on children). Mark the initial number with a chip. “Jump” your finger to visually demonstrate adding.

Model counting (with fish, counters, or fingers), keeping the two parts separate (the starting set and the part added).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: Ask prompting questions throughout the activity (e.g., “You have 3 fish, but want 6. How many more do you need? Or how many more do you need to add?”).

SUBTRACTION STEPS

The big sharks are so happy to have four small fish. They’re so hungry! Let’s find out how many fish it’s going to eat…

Point to the third step icon card.

Select one card from the Plus/Minus cards.

REMEMBER… if children are not yet ready for subtraction, stick with addition only.

Minus two! That means we take away two fish from the ocean to feed to the shark!

Point to the fourth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Flip over the -2 Plus/Minus card.

NOTE: If the number being subtracted is too large for the number of fish left in the ocean, choose another plus/minus card, saying something such, “Oh, no! Our card says the shark is going to eat three fish, but we only have two fish left. We don’t have that many fish in our ocean. Let’s pick another card.”

 

Let’s take two fish from your oceans and put it into your ponds.

Point to the fifth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Have children move two fish from their oceans to their checking plates.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: subtract only one fish at a time.

MAKE IT HARER

  • Math: Subtract more fish, for example, 2, 3, or more fish. 

Or introduce terms such as minus and difference.

Let’s make sure everyone has two. Ask your partner, “Am I right?”

Point to the sixth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Encourage children to check each other, correcting as necessary.

Now, everyone feed the shark two fish from your ponds!

Point to the seventh SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Have children move the fish from their checking plates to the shark’s mouth.

How many fish are in your ocean now? How do you know?

Point to the eighth SUBTRACTION step icon card.

Children Think-Pair-Share with a partner to determine how many fish are in the ocean now.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: have children articulate exactly what mathematics they performed—including what they started with, what they subtracted, and the result.

You had four fish, then the hungry shark ate two. Now, you each have two fish in our ocean!

Verbalize the starting number and the number subtracted.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math & EF: use a number path (0-5, 0-10, or 0-20, depending on children). Mark the initial number with a chip. “Jump” your finger to visually demonstrate subtracting.

Model counting (with fish, counters, or fingers), keeping the two parts separate (the starting set and the part removed).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: ask prompting questions throughout the activity (for example, “You have four fish but want two. How many more do you need to take away [or subtract]?”).

Let’s play some more!

Keep playing, adding and subtracting fish as time allows.

What to do next

Do some students need more support or more challenge? Try the adaptations provided above for Small Group. Continue working in small groups with teacher support until students can comfortably play with minimal teacher guidance. Then have students practice the activity independently in Center . For children who are able to count forward or back from a number other than one without support and demonstrate a knowledge of number combinations to five or more, introduce the Hidden Ocean version.

Did some of your students play Hidden Ocean in a Small Group? If so, they should also play that version during Center Time. Don’t forget, children should play Visible Ocean in Small Group before playing in Center Time.

Materials


Steps of the Activity

The activity steps icons below outline the steps of the activity. Print these icons as cards and share them to help children remember the steps. They’re also a helpful scaffold for children!

Find a sample script for teachers to use here.


Set Up

Step 1

Children choose a counting card that determines the starting number of fish and all children place that many fish in their oceans.

Step 2

Children ask their partners, “Am I right?” Children check.

Step 3

Plus/Minus cards are placed facedown and a child selects one card.
Addition

Step 1

Children state how many fish are to be added or subtracted based on the Plus/Minus card selected (e.g., +1).

Step 2

Children “jump” that many fish from their bowl and into their checking pond (small plate).

Step 3

Children ask their partners, “Am I right?” Children check.

Step 4

Children “jump” their fish from their checking pond into their ocean.

Step 5

Children state/discuss how many fish are in the ocean now and how they know.
Subtraction

Step 1

Children state how many fish are to be added or subtracted based on the Plus/Minus card selected (e.g., +1).

Step 2

Children “jump” that many fish from their ocean and into their checking pond.

Step 3

Children ask their partners, “Am I right?” Children check.

Step 4

Children “jump” their fish from the checking pond into the shark’s mouth.

Step 5

Children state/discuss how many fish are in the ocean now and how they know.
Instructions

Instructions for introducing the activity to the Center

Introduce the Activity

Today, the Big Fish Story game we’ve been playing together will be at [name] Center!

Tell students that the activity will be in Centers to play on their own. We recommend playing the activity in Small Groups at least once before introducing it in Centers.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: Start with a smaller number of fish – that is, only include counting cards with smaller numbers (e.g., 1 or 2).

Include only +/- 1 cards so children add or subtract only one fish at a time

  • Math & EF: focus on addition only (include only addition cards).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: Start with a larger number of fish – that is, include counting cards with larger numbers (e.g., 3 or more).

Include only +/- cards with larger numbers (for example, +/- 2 or +/- 3).

  • Math & EF: focus on addition and subtraction (include both addition and subtraction cards).

You will have picture cards to help you remember how to play.

Display the activity step icons.

Time to Play!

Let’s remind ourselves how to play the game!

Review the steps of the activity while referencing the Step Icons.

When reviewing the Step Icons, tell children that they will be choosing the counting card in Step #3 instead of the teacher (as it was done in whole group and small group previously).

MAKE IT EASIER

  • EF: Use the Step Icons 

MAKE IT HARDER

  • EF: Omit the Step Icons.

What to do next

Keep playing this activity in Centers throughout the year. Students who played the Visible Ocean version may switch to the Hidden Ocean version once they’ve been introduced to it in Small Group and can comfortably count forward or back from a number other than one without support and demonstrate a knowledge of number combinations to five or more. Do some students need more support or more challenge? Try the adaptations provided above for Centers. 


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