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A Complete guide on 'How to teach subtraction to class 1'

Grade 1 children will learn the concept of subtraction after the addition. The subtraction might be tricky for the kids. Whereas, you might find it easy to teach addition because the child will learn the addition by the counting forward method.

Teaching subtraction is also easy with the below strategies and hands-on activities. In simple, Subtraction means to take away. Read on the below post to know about the methods to teach subtraction.

First, you need to introduce the definition of subtraction and the terms used in it to the children.

What is subtraction?

Subtraction means to take away or remove some objects from the group of objects. In other words,  removing the numbers from the other set of given numbers. It is one of the four basic arithmetic operations.

For eg, 4 take away 9 means that you need to take away 4 from the number 9. You are going to remove the 4 objects from the group of 9 objects.

What are terms used in the subtraction?

The terms used in the subtraction are the Minuend, subtrahend, difference, left out, remaining, balance

Minuend- The number from which the other number is subtracted is known as minuend. The first number in the subtraction sentence is the minuend.

Subtrahend - The number which is to be subtracted from the minuend(first number) is called a subtrahend. The second number in the subtraction sentence is known as a subtrahend.

Difference - The answer which we get in subtracting two numbers in known as difference. So, the answer in subtraction is called the difference.

The other terms which are used in the subtraction word problems are left out, remaining, and balance. It is best to use these subtraction terms repeatedly while teaching so that the children get used to these terms. 

How do you write a subtraction sentence?

The subtraction sentence is an equation that is used to represent the arithmetic subtraction operation. In other words, writing the numbers as an equation with signs and symbols.

For eg, 2 takeaway 6 can be written in subtraction sentences as below.
The subtraction sentence is  6 - 2 = 4.
where the number 6 is the minuend
the number 2 is the subtrahend
the number 4 is the answer or difference.
The signs used in the above equations are minus (-) and equal to(=).

What are the properties of subtraction?

The basic properties of the subtraction are 

1. When we subtract a number from the same number, then the answer of the subtraction (difference) is always zero. In other words, when the minuend and subtrahend are the same, then the difference is zero.
For eg, 23 - 23 = 0.

2. When we subtract zero from a number then the difference is the number itself. In other words, when we subtract zero from the minuend, then the answer is the minuend.
For eg, 6 - 0 = 6.

How to teach subtraction for class 1

There are 5 different methods or strategies to teach subtraction to young learners. 

1. Subtraction with help of objects - It is the basic and easy method to teach subtraction for class 1. The child can understand the concepts easily with visual learning. You can use the manipulative, candies, and toys to teach subtraction. 

For eg, You can teach with the story. There are 5 apples on the table. A bird took away 2 apples and flew away. How many apples are left over? The child can easily tell the difference by counting the objects.

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2. Subtraction with the help of pictures - You can teach subtraction by drawing the pictures below the first number of subtraction sentences. Now, tell the child to cross out the pictures of that second number. Now, the child can find the left out by counting the remaining pictures. Refer to the below pictures.

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3. Number Line Method - The number line method helps to teach both addition and subtraction operations. The number line method is an easy and simple method to understand the concept of subtraction. When the child understands the concepts, you can introduce the subtraction sentence.

It helps them to visualize the concrete numbers in an equation and they get used to the equation. As a beginner, the child can solve the subtraction sentence using the number line method. 

The child needs to mark the bigger number on the number line and count the second number by jumping backward to get the difference. So, before introducing the finger and mind method, make sure that the child is mastered in doing the subtraction using the number line.

4. Finger Method - The grade 1 child learns simple subtraction. They will learn subtraction with regrouping at the grade2 level. So, you can teach subtraction with the finger method. The child can keep the first number in the left hand and the second number in the right hand. The child needs to count backward.

5. Mind Method - In the mind method, the child keeps one number in the mind and the other numbers in the finger. The child needs to start counting backward from the number in mind. You can introduce this method after the line and finger method. So that, the child can do this easily.


  • Subtraction means taking away 
  • Subtraction to be done in the correct order. The order of the numbers would change the answer of subtraction. The first number should always be written at the top or first and the other number below that.  In addition and multiplication, the order doesn't matter. 
  • You can explain the subtraction to kindergarten with the help of manipulatives and toys. Visual learning makes understanding easier.
  • Don't introduce subtraction with regrouping when they are in Grade 1 class.

I hope the above post on 'How to teach subtraction to class 1' would assist you to teach subtraction to your little buds. 'Momovators' is all about parenting and Education.

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