Ten Sly Piranhas
A Counting Story in Reverse

by William Wise; illustrated by Victoria Chess

Ten Sly Piranhas is such a fun book and great for teaching subtraction!  In the story, a school of (cute) piranhas slowly outmaneuver and eat each other, one by one, until the last little piranha is himself eaten by a crocodile, and "then there were none."

This 'eaten one at a time' format makes for a fun and effective early subtraction (minus 1, since it's 10-1, 9-1...).  And the fact that the piranhas are EATING the creatures made the kids understand that subtraction makes things 'go away'.  :)  School Library Journal said "The lilting cadence of the anticipatory story makes it fun to read and hear." We agree!!!  We are NON singers, but I promise...you'll want to literally sing it to your class! :)

Reading Levels

Interest Level:  Preschool-Gr. 1
Grade Equivalent:  2.9

DRA Level:   20
Guided Reading:  L

Lexile Measure: 600L

See Inside

Below is a sample page from inside this book. This page occurs halfway through the book, with just five sly piranhas left.  On the facing page, the text reads: "And with a gulp and a girgle, number six had vanished too. (large space)  Five sly piranhas were swimming in the river,/ Five rougish rascals, all rotten to the core./ Then one spied another, eating beetles at the bottom."  (The next page reads: "And with a gulp and a girgle, there were only four."  Fun!)

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Lesson Ideas for Ten Sly Piranhas

The Utah Education Network website lists a fun, interactive Ten Sly Piranhas lesson / activity to use in 1st grade subtraction or even Kindergarten subtraction lessons. In short, the teacher reads the book, then using cutouts (provided), has the students help re-tell the story (writing the respective number sentences on the board as well.) Then students are given Goldfish crackers and are instructed to eat them one at a time as the story is re-read again. Other math activities are also suggested, like graphing the subtraction or using a number line (both provided), using a ten frame (also provided), writing in a math journal or storyboarding it (also provided).

Illuminations Dominoes Activity
The Illuminations website has an activity called 'Do It with Dominoes' that uses this title as the introduction to the lesson, which then uses dominoes to show the relationship between addition and subtraction.  To read the full lesson plan, please click here.

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Or see other books on our page of best books for teaching subtraction: