Monkey Mania

In this lesson, children will use subtraction by acting out the words to the accompanying book and song.

Lesson for:

(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 meanings of operations and how they relate to one another
  • Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates
  • Analyze change in various contexts

Learning Targets:

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

  • Understanding subtraction
  • Representing addition and subtraction with objects, fingers and drawings, etc.
  • Developing and using strategies for adding and subtracting

Monkey Mania

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Dry-erase/chalkboard, easel with paper to record numerical sentences and the children’s mathematical thinking.
  • Markers
  • The book, Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Annie Kubler 
  • The song, “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  • 10 Unifix cubes

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 be monkeys learning about subtraction.
  2. Say: “We will be monkeys jumping on a bed.”
  3. Ask questions about subtraction. For example, say: “When I say subtraction, what do I mean? What about take away? Is that the same as subtract?” It is important that your vocabulary is consistent. When introducing subtraction, stick with “take away” for subtraction operations. Much of what you will be modeling and working with when subtracting will involve the action of “taking” an object “away” from a larger group, resulting in a smaller group of objects. Use the answers the children give to generate more questions. Jot down their ideas about subtraction on your easel, the big paper that you are using to record the children’s mathematical thinking.
  4. Model what subtraction might look like. For example, hold up all 10 of your fingers. Say: “I am holding up 10 fingers. What if I subtract or take away three fingers?” Tuck three of your fingers behind your palm. Say: “How many fingers are left?” Show the children your remaining outstretched fingers. Say: “Let’s count how many fingers are left. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Yes, seven fingers are left.” Say: “So we can say that if we have 10 fingers and take away three fingers, that equals seven fingers. Is this correct?” Solicit answers and write the number sentence 10-3=7 on your sheet of paper.
  5. Ask the children to solve one or two subtraction problems as a group, using their fingers. Provide the number sentence using 10 fingers and then various numbers to subtract. Write down and represent their answers and the number questions that you asked on the piece of paper.
  6. Introduce the book, Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the BedSay: “Look at the cover. Do you see all of those monkeys on the bed? Let’s count all of the monkeys on the bed.” Note: Each monkey has a number on its shirt, so it is easy to keep track of all 10 monkeys. Say: “What do you think is going to happen?” It is likely that many of the children know this song and will know the next lyric or line in the book. That is okay. When reading the book, you will want to rephrase what happens by asking how many monkeys are remaining on the bed after one falls off.
  7. Read the book. Pause and ask questions after a monkey falls off of the bed. For example, read: “Eight little monkeys jumping on the bed, one falls off and bumps his head. Momma calls the doctor and the doctor says, ‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed!'” Then, before turning the page, ask: “NOW, how many monkeys are jumping on the bed?” The next page in the book will validate their answers. Keep track of the numerical equations that you are asking on the big chart paper or dry-erase board.
  8. Show the children how they are thinking in a numerical context and have them begin to connect number sentences with the subtraction that they are doing throughout the book. After you read the first sequence in the book and you ask the children how many monkeys are remaining after one monkey fell off of the bed, the number sentence that should accompany that operation is 10-1=9.
  9. Write out the subtraction problems that accompany each verse of the book.

10-1= ________
9-1 = ________
8-1 = ________
7-1 = ________
6-1 = ________
5-1 = ________
4-1 = ________
3-1 = ________
2-1 = ________
1-1 = ________

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Provide the children with an opportunity to bounce around and act like monkeys!
  2. Act out the song. Have 10 children stand up and, as each “monkey” bumps its head, have that child sit down. The children can also pretend to be on the phone when “Mama calls the doctor.”
  3. Represent the mathematical operation by starting off the song with 10 Unifix cubes and detaching one cube for each monkey that falls off of the bed.
  4. Extend the children’s vocabulary and the underlying mathematical operation that is being utilized by reinforcing the subtraction involved. When reading the book or singing the song, after the children complete a verse, restate the verse in numerical terms. “8 monkeys were jumping on the bed, one fell off.  8 take away 1 equals 7.”  If possible, point to the numerical sentences on the board while you are reinforcing the number sentences.

Additional Extensions

  • Have the children create a book that represents the mathematical work that they have been singing and reading about. Have a prefabricated book prepared with the lyrics of the song on each page. Leave enough space so that the children can represent the mathematical thinking that is taking place with either symbols, number sentences or both.
  • Give the children their own sets of 10 Unifix cubes. Start with 10 cubes, indicating to the children that each cube represents a monkey. As each monkey “falls off of the bed,” have the children detach one Unifix cube. Have a designated place for the children to put the monkeys that have fallen off of the bed. Ask questions throughout the song. Ask: “If we now have four monkeys jumping on the bed, how many monkeys are on the floor?” Using the Unifix cubes, compare the monkeys that have fallen off of the bed to the monkeys jumping on the bed.
  • Use fingers. Counting on fingers helps children understand the amount that is being represented by each number. Sing the song and have the children show how many monkeys remain with their fingers. Stop after each verse so that the children have an opportunity to display the correct number of fingers on each hand.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Take Away: To remove something (e.g.,”When we subtract, we take away.”)
  • How many: The total or sum (e.g.,”How many monkeys are jumping on the bed?”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not have one-to-one correspondence
  • Not be able to sit in a circle listening to others for an extended period of time
  • Not be able to count beyond five
  • Not yet recognize numbers
Child care providers may:
  • Provide assistance when children are counting, helping them with one-to-one correspondence.
  • Modify the song to “5 Little Monkeys.”  ( )
  • Read the book, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow.
  • Encourage repetition. Children love this song and book. Repetition helps to reinforce and solidify the mathematical concept of subtraction.
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Be able to work with numbers higher than 10
  • Not be able to count backwards
Child care providers may:
  • Allow children to create their own story of monkey mania starting with 20, 15 or 12
  • Encourage children to learn to count backward from 10, just like they do when a rocket ship blasts off

Suggested Books

  • 10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Annie Kubler (Auburn, ME: Childs Play Intl. Ltd, 2001)
  • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Christelow Eileen (New York: Clairon Books, Houghton Milllin, 1998)
  • 5 Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow (New York: Clairon Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • This activity can easily be done outdoors in any type of weather. Change the words of the song to: “10 Little Monkeys Jumping in the Snow ” or “10 Little Monkeys Jumping in a Pile of Leaves.”
  • Use natural manipulatives such as a branch or a twig with leaves. Change the words of the song to: “5 little leaves are hanging on a tree” or “5 little rocks are sitting on a log.”

Web Resources

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