Down the Drain! A subtraction game. (virtual version included)

Ages 5+ Subtraction and addition

“Down the drain” is a “last man standing” game.

Goal: Don’t go down the drain!

The game is for ages 5 and up and it can be played on two levels, Basic game, and Challenge.

With the basic game, students will practice subtraction to 12, 20, or more depending on what kind of dice you use. With the challenge, they will practice subtraction and addition while remembering the importance of brackets in a number sentence. (again you decide how high the numbers go with the dice you use)


  • Print out of the game board
  • 2 dice (6 sided, 10 sided or more) for basic and 3 for the challenge)
  • A small object for each player for position marker.

Learn how to build your own dice here.

Basic Game

The players take turns rolling the 2 dice. Every time they subtract their numbers (least from greatest) and move that many steps. You can use a number line or a group of objects for younger players.

The goal is to move as few steps as possible to avoid going down the drain.

  • If a player rolls doubles they stay at the same spot (0 steps).
  • If they land in a bubble they get to roll one dice and move back that many steps ( saved by the bubble).
  • If they land on slippery slime they must roll again ( 2 dice and subtract) and move ahead (slippery slime is your enemy).
  • If a player moves past number 1 he goes down the drain and he is out of the game.

The last player left in the game wins.


The players roll 3 dice (face 6, 10 or more). Once they roll they must make a three-number math sentence with one subtraction and one addition using their numbers. They are trying to get the smallest number of steps to move ahead. Use each number once.


The last way will give you the least steps for moving down the drain so it’s the best one to use. Unless it gets you into slippery slime.

The way the players arrange/separate the dice to explain their thinking works like brackets. You can use a paper to write the math sentences with the brackets. This is a good way to remind students that brackets make all the difference. The challenge game offers a lot of mental math practice.

The rest of the rules are the same as in the basic game.


Sometimes the smallest number might get you in slippery slime so you might prefer the second smallest. Sometimes you need to choose the number that gets you in the bubble. There is a lot of thinking to do.

Here’s another idea, you can read the fun book “Down the Drain!” by Robert Munsch before playing this game.

Find the free google slides version of the game here.

Download the print game board below