Struggling with Subtraction?
Subtracting is so much harder to teach than adding since there are more basic subtraction facts to master that have no obvious system and memorizing math facts is extremely difficult for some students.
A number minus zero is the number.
Always exaggerate an example:
- a trillion minus zero is a trillion.
A number minus one is the previous number on the number line. You may have to have them practice counting backwards to master this one.
- eg., 6 - 1 = 5
Subtracting two, three, and four.
Use a count down method, hopping down the 'points' on the numbers. Start by saying the top number and then count backwards as they hop down the points or ends of the bottom number. Try to find a font that shows the four with four ends.
- 9 - 3 = 9, 8, 7, 6 (sample)
(Go to our subtract 2, 3 & 4 worksheets.)
Use 'magic nine'. To subtract nine from basic minus facts, just add the top numbers together by putting a little plus sign in between the top numbers. (This works because it is part of the math ladder method.)
- eg., 14 - 9 = (1 + 4) or 5. (sample)
Subtracting ten has a system, you just bring down the one's digit in the top number.
- eg,. 17 - 10 = 7
Tell them that subtracting is just "adding upside down".
- eg., For, 16 - 8 say, "What plus 8 equals 16?"
Subtracting the rest using the math ladder.
Use the math ladder. Take the bottom number and subtract it from ten, then add it to the ones digit of the top number.
eg., 16 - 7 = (10 - 7 = 3) + 6 = 9 (sample)
(This is the best method to use with older students — they will become as quick at using this method as someone who can simply memorizes the math fact.)
- eg., 16 - 7 = (10 - 7 = 3) + 6 = 9 (sample)
Three strategies to use for students that have problems memorizing their subtraction math facts.
For subtracting 1 thru 4, they should count-down using the points on the lower number.
eg., 7 - 3 = 7, 6, 5, 4 (sample)
Use 'Magic Nine', simply add the top two numbers together.
eg., 17 - 9, add 1 + 7 = 8. (sample)
Use the Math Ladder method:
eg., 15 - 7 = ?
Students subtract the bottom number (7) from 10
10 - 7 = 3
add that number (3) to the one's digit of the top number (15).
3 + 5 = 8
(3 is added to the 5 because it is the one's digit in the top number),
since 3 + 5 = 8, then 15 - 7 = 8. (sample)
The Math Ladder is a little complicated to explain but a great tool.
'Magic Nine' works because it is the math ladder method.
- Students subtract the bottom number (7) from 10
Go to the Basic Math Strategy page.
No Longer at a Standstill with Subtraction
Teaching Resources for Subtraction — worksheets, lesson plans, etc.
- teaching subtraction worksheets — use proven techniques to help struggling students learn math concepts. (samples)
- practice subtraction worksheets — are progressively designed.
- practice addition and subtraction worksheets — are carefully designed to progressively help students advance their math skills.
Return to Math Skills Index.
Subtraction • Subtracting Stress from Success!
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