How to Complete the Subtraction Sentence

Instructor: Audrey Akins

Audrey has more than a decade of experience teaching elementary. She has a bachelor's in journalism and a master's in education.

Subtraction is something you do to figure out how much is left, how much to give away, or how much is missing. During this lesson, you will learn how to complete a subtraction sentence when different parts are missing.

Subtraction Sentences

At this point, you know that when you subtract, it means you are taking a certain number away from another number. For example, if you took a trip to the zoo and saw 9 flamingos standing together, and then 7 walked away, only 2 would be left standing there. The number sentence would be written as 9 - 7 = 2.

Subtract the second number from the first number to complete the number sentence.

A subtraction number sentence is an equation that shows a number being subtracted from another number with a final answer like the example above. The first number in a subtraction number sentence is the minuend (min-yoo-end). The second number in a subtraction number sentence is the subtrahend. The answer to a subtraction problem is called the difference.

So, in our example with the flamingos, 9 is the minuend, 7 is the subtrahend, and 2 is the difference. Subtraction sentences with missing differences are the most common and easiest to figure out.

Missing Minuend

Another type of subtraction sentence is one that has a missing minuend. This is when the first number is missing.

Let's say you are still on your trip at the zoo. If you saw a group of fish, and a girl at the zoo told you that 3 just swam away, and now you see 11 fish, your subtraction number sentence would look like this: ___ - 3 = 11.

Add the second number and the answer to complete the number sentence.

To figure out the number of fish that were just there before 3 swam away, you would add the subtrahend, which is the second number, and the difference. This would give you 14. So, to complete the number sentence, you would write 14 in the first place in the number sentence.

Another example of completing a subtraction number sentence like this is if you had the problem ___ - 3 = 9. To solve, add the second number, 3, and the difference, 9. You would get 12, which would be the number to complete the number sentence.

Missing Subtrahend

The last type of subtraction sentence deals with a missing subtrahend, which, as we said earlier, is the second number.

While you're on your trip at the zoo, you might see 8 weasels huddled together. Then, when you look again, you only see 5. Your subtraction number sentence for this situation would look like this: 8 - ___ = 5.

Subtract the last number from the first number to complete the number sentence.

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