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Are any of you teachers?

I'm helping tutor a 4th grader in math through the Math Buddy program where I work.  They provide every 4th grader in one of our local elementary schools with a Math Buddy to tutor them throughout the year.

My buddy is doing great at addition and the other things his teacher assigns, but he is completely balking at doing subtraction.  I'm not quite sure how to help him out, but was looking for some ideas on different ways to try and explain subtraction to him.  I know his grade testing is coming up in March and I was hoping he'd understand it better by then so he doesn't get so frustrated on his test. 

Props, scratch paper, and counting on fingers is okay for now. Got any ideas?

~DD born 3-25-10~DS born 6-5-12~
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Re: Are any of you teachers?

  • I'm not a teacher, but maybe use M&Ms or Skittles or something.  Maybe do something like "If you have 5 candies and you eat 3 (have his eat 3), how many do you have left?"  That way, he gets a treat and learns.
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  • 4th grade, is it subtraction with regrouping that he's having difficulty with or just basic subtraction?

    If it's regrouping, maybe a cute rhyme to help him remember? I've used "More on the floor, go next door" to remind students to regroup (or what we know as "borrowing"). 

     I Googled and found the whole poem:


    More on top?
    No need to stop!

    More on the floor?
    Go next door.
    Get one ten.
    That's ten ones more.

    Numbers the same?
    Zero's the game!


    Just reminds them if the top number is bigger, they do straight subtraction, if the bottom # is bigger, they regroup, and if they're the same, answer is zero.

    If you can get a hold of some base-ten blocks, that would be a helpful manipulative. Or along the food line, you could use Twizzlers (for the 10s) and M&Ms or mini-marshmallows for the 1s. He can visually see how to exchange 10 ones for 1 ten and stuff like that.


    I've found the forums at VERY helpful. You may want to search through posts there and see if you can find some ideas.


  • Get him to see the connection between addition and subtraction...If he can add, then he can already subtract:  when given a subtraction problem have him do the addition fact first.
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