# How to teach the concept of subtraction

In this article we provide a simple method parents and teachers can use to teach subtraction to students. The intention of this exercise is to help students understand subtraction as counting back, taking away and difference.

## Teaching method for subtraction

What you will need

Construction bricks, marbles, rocks.

• Start by telling the student that you are going to tell them a new story.
• Say, ‘First there were six children playing with construction bricks,’ Place six construction bricks on the table, ask the student to count the bricks to confirm the number of bricks.
• Then, tell the student, ‘Then 2 children went off somewhere else to play’. Remove two bricks from the table.
• Ask the student to tell you how many bricks are on the table now. Confirm that there are 4 bricks.
• Ask the student how they know. The student may say that they counted or could say that they remember that 4 + 2 = 6. There were 6 bricks, but 2 were taken away. Since

4 + 2 = 6, there must be 4 left.

• Remind the student that you told them a ‘first, then and now’ story for addition and

ask how this story was the same and how it was different.

• In the addition story, you added more cars, but in this story, you removed some bricks.
• Explain that what the student saw was a whole of 6 and a part of 2 being taken away.
• Record the matching number sentence 6 – 2 = 4, highlighting 6 as first, -2 as then and 4 as now. Also highlight the minus symbol (-) used for subtraction.
• As with addition, explain that there are different kinds of subtraction. Explain that the student will be concentrating on subtraction as take away, having a quantity and then taking some away and finding out what is left.
• As with addition, check that the student recognises that the number sentence is a way of recording the story, so they must include all of what happened in the correct order: first, then, now. Highlight the symbol for subtraction (-) so that the student is clear about which symbol to use.

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