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The Fun Subtracting Money Game for Cash-Loving Kids

Here’s a real-life subtracting money game that kids play with actual cash!

Which means, of course, that even though there’s a ton of math learning going on, this game doesn’t feel math-y at all.

Kids love playing because they get to dig their fingers into actual money (mwa-ha-ha!) and get paid by their opponent.

What’s not to like?

Meanwhile, you’ll be smugly watching your child get better at counting and subtracting money in her head–without even realizing she’s learning.

HOW TO PLAY “PAY THE DIFFERENCE” SUBTRACTION GAME

AGES: 8-11 years (variation for younger kids below)

PLAYERS: 2

BEST FOR: subtraction practice, counting money, understanding the concept of “difference”

PREP: You’ll need a deck of cards with face cards and 10s removed, and $4.00 in mixed coins.

  1. Give $2.00 in coins to each player. Put the deck face down on the table.
  2. Each player takes two cards from the pile. Use these to make a two-digit number, like 63.
  3. Players tell each other their numbers.
  4. Next, the players figure out the difference between their numbers. For whatever reason, most kids prefer to do this subtraction in their head, which is awesome.
  5. The player with the lower number pays that amount of money to the other player.
  6. For example, if the numbers were 64 and 31, the player with the lower number would pay the other player 33 cents.
  7. Play until all the cards are used up or someone runs out of money.

SUBTRACTING MONEY WITH YOUNGER KIDS

Little kids love this game as much as their older siblings, but may have a hard time doing two-digit subtraction in their heads. Here are some variations to try:

EASIEST: Take out the face cards but leave in the tens. Play as above, but give each player a dollar in dimes and pennies, and draw just one card from the pile.

So instead of comparing numbers like 32 and 91, in this subtraction game they’ll find the difference between 3 and 9.

SLIGHTLY HARDER: Leave in the face cards and the tens. Face cards are worth ten. Give each player a dollar in mixed coins.

Draw TWO cards from the pile and add them together. Players will find the difference between numbers like 18 and 12.

A QUICK NOTE ON SUBTRACTION “DIFFERENCE”

Kids learn subtraction as take away, but subtraction can also be used to find the difference between two numbers, or how much more one number is than another.

Think of it like two rows of dots. They all line up exactly, except for the part where one number is a little bigger.

This is the difference between the two numbers.

When she is subtracting money on her turn, ask, “What’s the difference between (8 and 12)?” You can help her understand what “difference” means by using those words naturally as you play.

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