Subtraction Methods: A Step-By-Step Procedure for Teaching the Equations

Learn effective subtraction methods for teaching your child the equations. Here I am outlining a procedure that will help her to better understand this concept.

This is simple to do if you follow some basic principles, some of which I am including below.


Learn Addition Facts First If Possible

Before you begin teaching subtraction to your child it would be helpful to make sure she knows her addition facts first. 

Of course, this may not always be possible. I understand that sometimes our kids may not be able to memorize them all. 

That’s okay. Because even if she is unable to memorize all the addition facts, you may feel that it’s still time to move on to subtraction just so she can learn something beyond addition. The goal is, after all, to give her a good understanding of basic math.

So have her learn the addition facts if she can, but if this goal is too unreachable, just move on to subtraction.

But you want to at least make sure she has a basic understanding of addition before you teach subtraction.


Try This Subtraction Procedure

penniesIf you decide to use coins to teach equations, stick with pennies so your child will not be confused when you begin teaching her to count money.

Below I am outlining subtraction methods that I think will help most children with autism better understand the process.

1.  Read the Equation

If your child is able to read the equation, have him read it from left to right. Take his hand and help him point to each symbol as he reads it.

If he is nonverbal or if he cannot read it, you can read it to him. But if you do this for him, be sure to take his finger in your hand and read the equation to him, moving his finger under each number and symbol as you read it.

I will illustrate this with the example equation, 5 - 3 = 2.

Why should you help him point to the numbers and/or equations?

Because if you point to the symbols yourself he may not be looking at what you are doing. If you instead take his hand and help him point, he is more likely to be following his own finger with his eyes.

With that said, depending on your child, you may still need to keep watching him and reminding him to look at the equation or the objects you are counting, because some kids with autism are very easily distracted.

Take it from me--those little eyes can drift away very quickly! Over and over again...

Having him read it if he is able will also help to ensure that he is paying attention.

2.  Take his hand and help him point to the first number in the equation.

Read the number (in this case, 5) or have him read it. (From here on out, when I say to read the number, symbol or equation I really mean to either let him read it if he can, or you read it to him if necessary.)

3. Help him count the number of objects you are starting out with.

In this example, you would take his hand and help him count out five objects. (To avoid confusion, remove all other objects that you won't be needing for that equation unless you are using an abacus.)

4.  Take his hand and help him point to the “ - “ symbol, and say, “take away.”

I think it's a lot more helpful to say "take away" rather than "minus." 

Saying "take away" makes it a lot more clear exactly what you are doing when you are subtracting one number from another. 

You are simply starting with a certain number of things and taking some of them away.

4.  Help him point to the next number and read it. Then take away that number of objects.

In this example, you would read “3” and have him take away three objects.

5. Read and help him point to the equals sign, and then to the answer.

In this example, you would read “equals 2.” 

6. Help him count out loud the number of objects that are left.

Take hold of his hand and help him point to each object as you count the two objects that are left.

7. Now read the entire equation out loud again.

Do this while taking his finger and moving it along under each number and symbol as you read.

8. Consider giving rewards.

This is a great time to give him a special reward for reading and counting out the equation. Food items or snacks that you have been counting can turn into ready-made rewards he can eat.


Try These Subtraction Methods and Tweak Them to Suit Your Child

I’m not going to claim that this technique will work perfectly for every child, since every child is different and everyone learns differently. But I think for autistic kids that this is a good procedure to begin with.

As you try these subtraction methods, you may find that you need to tweak with them and change them about to suit your own child’s needs.

It also helps a lot to try to make learning these concepts as fun and interesting as possible. So I have another article I’m working on that will explain how you can liven up your addition and subtraction methods and make them fun and more real to your child.

Stay tuned because I plan to have that article posted in the next couple of weeks.

If you want to be informed whenever we post new articles to this site, scroll up to the top of this page and join our newsletter list.


› Subtraction Methods

Related Articles

1. Teaching Math to Children With Autism

2. Using Math Flash Cards to Teach Various Concepts

3. Using an Abacus

4. Learning Addition Math Facts

Like This Page?

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Sign up to receive helpful tips for making life better for your child.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of any email we send to you.