Subtraction Strategies - Subtraction Using Manipulatives

Subtraction is a concept that, in plain sight, is not as easy as the addition. We often find kids struggling with subtraction. Further, as they get introduced to double-digit subtraction and subtraction with regrouping, their minds become a web of confusion.

So, how do we make subtraction with regrouping easy to understand for our kids? If you are here looking for an answer to this then you are at the right place. Here we have given one of the easiest subtraction strategies through which you can make subtraction practice fun and easy for your kids.

Subtraction with regrouping using manipulative?

A manipulative, in the context of math, can be any object with whose aid a learner can understand a mathematical concept. A manipulative contributes to an enriched  and developmentally suitable learning experience of children.

Manipulative are a great way of introducing subtraction with regrouping to kids. This has become one of the most popular subtraction strategies to teach subtraction to kids.
Print the Place Value Mat for Subtraction

Understanding Subtraction with regrouping

For understanding subtraction with regrouping, it is necessary that kids understand the mathematical concept of place value. In the manipulative method, kids will be getting a better understanding of place value as they will be taking a 10 and breaking it into 1s.  To get started with subtraction learning through manipulative, one can use base 10 cubes, uni-fix cubes, lego cubes or any kind of small objects that can be grouped into multiple groups of 10s.

Step-wise approach to learning subtraction with regrouping

In order to get started with this step-wise approach, let’s take up a subtraction problem with the help of which we can navigate through the learning process.

Say, we have a subtraction fact problem where we need to find the answer to:

Subtraction Fact 1

Step 1 – Let’s pair up the subtraction fact problem with the place value mat.

The Place Value Mat

Note: A ready place value mat is available for free download (above).

Step 2 – Next, place on the mat, uni-fix cubes representing the larger number i.e. 32. How to do it?

  • Place 30 cubes in 3 columns in the ‘Tens’ area of the mat. Each column should contain 10 cubes.
  • Place 2 cubes in the ‘Ones’ area of the mat.
Pictorial representation of how to place manipulatives on the Place Value Mat

Step 3 – Write 32 – 19 vertically on the space available on the mat to perform the subtraction operation.

Step 3 Subtraction Strategies Using Manipulatives

Step 4 – Let’s subtract the Ones place first. Since we cannot subtract 9 from 2, we will borrow a ten column from the ‘Tens’ place; split it into 10 ‘Ones’ cube and place them on the ‘Ones’ side. Now, we have 12 cubes on the ‘Ones’ side and 2 columns of 10 i.e. 20 cubes on the ‘Tens’ side. Here, do explain your kid how 30 + 2 = 20 + 12.

Step 4 - Subtraction Strategies Using Manipulatives

Step 5 – Now that we have regrouped the cubes, we again go ahead with our subtraction. Currently, we have 12 cubes in the ones place and we need to subtract 9 from it. To do that, we take away 9 cubes from the ‘Ones’ side.

Step 5 - Subtraction Strategies Using Manipulatives

We are now left with just 3 cubes on the Ones side.

Step 6 – Next, we will subtract the ‘Tens’ place. Since we had borrowed one column of 10, we are now left with only 2 columns which represent 20. Therefore in the ‘Tens’ place we need to subtract 1 from 2 (not 3). To do that, take away one entire column from the ‘Tens’ side. We are now left with just 1 column.

Step 6 - Subtraction Strategies Using Manipulatives

Step 7 – Now, we will count the number of cubes left on the place value mat. There is 1 column of 10 cubes left on the ‘Tens’ side and 3 cubes on the ‘Ones’ side, i.e. total 13 cubes are left. That is our answer to 32 – 19. Let your kid count the cubes left on the place value mat and write the answer below the vertical subtraction fact.

Step 7 - Subtraction Strategies Using Manipulatives

Try this subtraction strategy to help your kids in learning subtraction with regrouping. You can use any kind of small objects present in your home in order to teach subtraction through this method. You can find few more subtraction strategies in our blog which will be greatly helpful in teaching your kids subtraction.

In case you have one of your own unique subtraction strategies, do share it with us in the comments box below.