Before diving into the subtraction tips, take a moment to consider the struggling student's perspective. Consider how it might feel to be baffled by numbers, and dread the words "get out your math book." Think about kids that always seem to fall behind, and no matter how hard they try, they are always trying to catch up. Think about the courage it takes for these children to show up to school everyday. The purpose of these tips is to provide these children with some tools and activities to succeed in math.
Try the Subtraction Videos
Many teachers and parents land find this "subtraction tips page" when looking for subtraction resources. They have no idea that there are subtraction lessons split into five short videos. Try the easy subtraction video, or move on the the medium subtraction video or the hard subtraction video. The key to using the videos is participation by counting out loud and tapping your fingers on a table or desk when you are given the opportunity (the videos buttons are also below).
One subtraction tip that is a major key to learning how to subtract is participation. As mentioned above, count out loud and tap your fingers on a desk or table. This will make a huge difference. When you hear "Now it's your turn to try" in the subtraction video, repeat the method you just watched. As you practice more and more, you will be able to tackle more difficult problems in faster times. In the beginning, it takes repetition and patience.
2 Minute Drill
2 Minute Drill
This is a fantastic activity. Huge improvements can be made with consistent practice of this activity.
This activity uses a website called Math Fact Practice. I am not involved with this website--this is just a quality, free tool. For beginners, set up the activity for level 5, subtraction, 2 minutes, and mute sound. You try to answer as many problems correctly as possible in 2 minutes. Record the number answered on this 2 Minute Drill Chart. It is important to emphasize that it's not a competition, and each student records his or her score on his or her own chart without sharing scores.
Note, the easiest level was chosen intentionally. This subtraction activity is meant to boost a struggling student's confidence. It is not meant to measure them or compare them to others. Struggling students rarely get a chance to feel confident during the school day. Getting the right answer feels good, and this is an opportunity for them to kick some math booty! If they get bored, remind them that they can always get faster. Remind them how fast they can do "1 - 1," and that every math problem could be that fast. That said, some kids will move on to level 10 faster than others. The jump to level 10 is quite large, so you may want to keep them at level 5 until they can subtract numbers effectively (or try addition and subtraction on level 5 at the same time). They will also need new worksheets when switching levels because the score drops when you switch.
If your student breaks a personal record by answering more questions than previous attempts, do something fun! At first, we would give the record breakers a round of applause. Later, we would watch a powerpoint presentation of funny animals put to some throw-back inspirational songs played through a minimized YouTube window. Songs like the Rocky Theme Song, Final Countdown, and We Are The Champions work great. One thing is for sure: "Pictures + Music" is one addition problem that will never make sense (in a positive, profound way). You can use my generic power point presentation here, or include the names of each student that broke his or her record (example here). Remember, the recognition doesn't go to the fastest kid. Recognition goes to anyone that beat his or her personal record. We did this activity once a week, and we saw some incredible improvements case by case. Overall, math test scores improved.
Out of all the subtraction tips, this one will pay off huge in the large run: counting backwards. Counting forwards and backwards is key to becoming comfortable with numbers, so make counting a part of your math program.
A subtraction method that is consistent works wonders. The "Three Dogs" series uses fingers and counting backwards to subtract. The subtraction practice videos ask you to start at the large number and count backwards on your fingers to get the answer. Counting backwards can be difficult for children. Some practice, patience, and repetition might be necessary. In the long run, the student will be far better off than counting up from the subtrahend (the smaller number), so don't give up. If this method works for you, stick with it and keep practicing. Are you not sure if you should count up or count down when learning how to subtract? Check out Subtraction - Counting Up vs. Counting Down (Backwards) for an opinion on the debate.
Find a Routine
Find a Routine
Especially if you are practicing math at home, finding a routine to practice math can really help. For example, maybe do the "2 Minute Drill" every Thursday right after dinner, no exceptions. If it becomes a part of your routine, you might not resist the activity. Also, you can count backwards every night before bed from 30 down to 1. This small activity done consistently can really pay off in the long run.