Subtraction (process)

The Subtraction Process




A consistent and effective approach to subtraction is key when first learning how to subtract. The introduction of a technique, the practice of the technique, and the mastery of the subtraction method come over time as the child practices the same method over and over. The most effective math students find a method that works, and practice that method over and over. By applying the same technique over and over, children become comfortable with the method, and can tackle even more difficult number problems as they become increasingly skilled at subtraction.


Practice subtracting with the math videos

Introducing How to Subtract


The subtraction method used in the math videos uses fingers to subtract. Subtraction Video 1 and Subtraction Video 2 introduce the process of subtracting to the child. In these videos, the fingers on one hand represent the subtrahend (the amount one is taking away), and the student counts backwards from the minuend (the large number). This is a great way for the student to become familiar with tapping the fingers, and counting backwards while using fingers. This can take some practice because there are actually several things going on at once, and it takes some time for the all the pieces to fall in place. As the student becomes more familiar with the method, he or she can move on to parts 3 and 4.


subtraction process with the videos

Practicing Subtraction With the Math Videos


Once the introductory method is understood, and the students become comfortable with the action of counting backwards and tapping the fingers, the next subtraction videos can be practiced. In Subtraction Video 3 and Subtraction Video 4, the student follows the same pattern as in parts 1 and 2. Unlike addition, this method does not require any transition from an introductory method to the complete method. The nice thing about the subtraction is that once the student can count backwards effectively, he or she will be able to subtract any single-digit subtrahend (the amount one is taking away).

To make these subtraction exercises effective, one must consider where the child is at and what would be a level-appropriate subtraction activity. If a student is attempting to learn the basics, it would be beneficial to keep the minuends small so that there is less chance of error in counting backwards. For example, beginner subtraction problems can look like "5 -2, 7 - 3, and 8 - 2." In all of these problems, the student needs to understand the subtraction method to be able to answer the problems effectively. Also, the student needs to be able to count backwards "on the fly" which takes some practice and repetition to be able to do. With repetition, learning this subtraction method will pay off in the long run. He or she will be well-equipped to tackle more advanced subtraction problems with the exact same approach. Unlike "counting up" from the subtrahend, when this method is done consistently, it makes sense to the child and it can be applied in the later years.


Tips for Kids Learning How to Subtract

Tips for Children Learning How To Subtract


A mentioned above, finding an effective method and practicing it repeatedly works wonders for kids. When children are doing subtraction three different ways, they are mixing up the methods and getting the wrong answer. Therefore, find a method that works for the math student, and practice, practice, practice. Then repeat.

Active participation will make or break your subtraction activity. If you are watching the math videos passively, you probably won't gain anything from the subtraction activity. If you are practicing subtraction at each prompt in the video, (when the video says "Now it's your turn to try") you will probably gain something from the practice.

Counting backwards is the key to this subtraction method. By practicing counting backwards, the student will be more comfortable with the method. When you practice counting backwards, you strengthen your number sense. To prepare yourself for the subtraction videos, practice counting backwards by starting at random numbers. This counting backwards video gives an example of this activity. This requires the student to be able to start at any number and count down. Once the child can do that, they will be well-prepared for more difficult subtraction problems.

Another tip that helps students is telling them where to start and when to start tapping the fingers. In this subtraction method, the child says the large number out loud, and then he or she begins tapping the fingers at the next number. In the problem "6 - 3" if the student has three on the fingers, they can get excited and start tapping at 6. This will give him or her the wrong answer. By telling the student that 6 is the starting point, and he or she should tap the first finger at 5, then the student will get the right answer. Then demonstrate,
"6, 5 (tap), 4(tap), 3(tap). So, the answer is 3!"
By making these steps explicit, it takes the guess work out of the activity. The student can practice along with the videos and match an effective approach, which will lead to understanding and independence.

Count backwards from 30 each night before bed. Do this habitually. Number sense will improve, and subtraction will be far less intimidating.




More Subtraction Articles

Counting Backwards Worksheet and Video

Subtracting by Counting Up or Counting Down

Subtraction Drill

Subtraction Tips

Subtraction Method







Math Videos for Kids

Subtraction Videos

Addition Videos





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