Subtraction Number Sentences

by Laurie Laurendeau on January 17, 2012

If your child is learning her subtraction facts, she has likely been introduced to the concept of number sentences.  What exactly is a subtraction number sentence?  Much like an addition number sentence, a subtraction  number sentence has two numbers, where one number is being subtracted from the other number.  It also includes the answer.  For example, “8 – 3 = 5” is a subtraction number sentence, as it includes both the subtraction question and its difference (answer).

Your child will first be given various number sentences with the difference(answer) missing.  For example,  she might see these types of questions:

  1. 7-2= ____
  2. 6-3= ____
  3. 8-5= ____
  4. 9-6= ____
  5. 4-3= ____

Next, she may be given number sentences with missing addends, such as:
1.   5 -__ = 2

2.   __- 5= 1

3.   4 -__= 3

4.  __-6 = 4

5.  9 -__=6

Then, your child may be given various story problems, and be asked to create her own number sentence.  For example:

There were 10 frogs sitting on a lily pad.  Three frogs decided to jump in for a dip.  How many frogs were left on the lily pad?

Number Sentence:  10 – 3 = 7

Be sure to point out the “clue words” in the story problem that tell us that this is a subtraction problem.  The clue words from the above story problem are “jump in” and “left”.  Discuss these words with your child, pointing out that they suggest taking away, or subtracting something.


  • As always, playing math games at home is a great way to reinforce math skills learned in school.
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