Subtraction: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sabrina Hairston

Sabrina has taught a variety of subjects and grades as a substitute teacher and will complete her MAT in 2016.

In this lesson, we'll discuss subtraction and the importance of this mathematical operation. You'll learn the steps of subtraction and learn how to borrow during subtraction. Then, test your knowledge with a short quiz!

Why Is Subtraction Important?

Subtraction is an important tool we use to help us find out what is left when taking one number away from another. For example if Lauren has $23 and spends $12 on a new shirt, we can use subtraction to find out how much money Lauren has left. To set up this problem, we place the two numbers vertically, with the bigger number on top of the smaller number:

23 - 12 written vertically. The numbers are divided into boxes so you can see the tens (T) and ones (O) place values.

It's important that the place values line up. The ones should be in the same column, the tens should be in the same column, and so on. Also, when writing subtraction problems, remember to add the subtraction sign to the left of the numbers. Once the numbers are lined up correctly, solve the problem by subtracting the bottom number from the top number in each column to get the answer of $11. Lauren has $11 left to spend.

Working Through the Steps of Subtraction

Subtraction can be made easier by separating it into a few different steps. Let's work through these steps by solving another problem:

4,963 - 2,146 = ?

Step 1: Set Up the Problem

To set up the subtraction problem vertically, put the larger number on top and the smaller number on bottom. In our problem, the larger number (4,963) comes first and the smaller number (2,146) goes under.

Always make sure the numbers line up based on their place value--the ones (O), tens (T), hundreds (H), and thousands (TH) all need to match up.

The problem looks like this:


Step 2: Borrow When Necessary

Sometimes, you can solve a problem from here by subtracting the bottom number from the top number along each column. But before we can solve this problem, we need to know about a third step that sometimes comes into play. Borrowing allows us to make a number bigger so that we can subtract from it.

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