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 children 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 it would be helpful to make sure they know the 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 they are unable to memorize all the addition facts, you may feel that it’s still time to move on to subtraction just so they can learn something beyond addition. The goal is, after all, to give them a good understanding of basic math.

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

But you want to at least make sure they have a basic understanding of addition before teaching subtraction.

Try This Subtraction Procedure

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

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

1.  Read the Equation

If they are able to read the equation, have them read it from left to right. Take their hand and help them point to each symbol as they read it.

If they are nonverbal or if they cannot read it, you can read it to them. But if you do this, be sure to take their finger in your hand and read the equation to them, moving the finger under each number and symbol as you read it.

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

2.  Take their hand and help them point to the first number in the equation.

Read the number (in this case, 5) or have them read it. 

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

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

With that said, depending on your child, you may still need to keep watching and giving reminders 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 them read it if they are able will also help to ensure that they are paying attention.

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

In this example, you would take their hand and help them count out five objects. (To avoid confusion, remove all other objects that you won't be needing for that equation.)

4.  Take their hand and help them 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.

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

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

6. Read and help them point to the equals sign, and then to the answer.

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

7. Help them count out loud the number of objects that are left.

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

8. Now read the entire equation out loud again.

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

9. Consider giving rewards.

This is a great time to offer 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 they 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 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.

Put the step-by-step procedure you learn in this article with the ideas and principles you can learn here and you will be well-set to teach subtraction in a way that they can truly understand.

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Related Articles

1. Subtraction Lessons: Tips for Learning and Understanding Equations

2. Teaching Math to Children With Autism

3. Using Math Flash Cards to Teach Various Concepts

4. Using an Abacus

5. Learning Addition Math Facts

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