Monday, May 24, 2010

5 Fun Ways to Learn Subtraction: Critical Thinking Activities

Although subtraction is a relatively easy math concept to learn, there are at least 5 fun ways to learn subtraction. These fun ways allow learning subtraction to be more enjoyable, instead of completing the traditional mind numbing repeating worksheets. Most students find that when the math problems are related to their lives, creative, and challenging they will find not only can they subtract - they have the ability to apply subtraction to many situations.

The first fun way is through the use of an online computer program that uses virtual manipulatives by Utah State University. Their website is and is designed to engage student critical thinking skills as they apply subtraction concepts. An interactive activity is called color chips in which you use different color chips to illustrate the subtraction of positive and negative integers. This activity requires the students use their problem solving skills to solve subtraction problems.

Another fun way to practice subtraction is to play baseball math. In this activity the teacher draws a baseball stadium on the chalk board from an overhead view. Students are divided up into teams. Each team takes their turn coming to bat, solving subtraction problems. The team not at bat waits for their turn to bat, since there is no field to protect. Students are asked to solve a variety of subtraction problems to get a base hit, once the team member gets a hit he/she places at symbol or marker on first base. As long as the team is at bat they get to continue placing runners on the bases and advancing around the bags and scoring runs. Just like in baseball, 3 incorrect answers equals three outs. Then the next team comes to bat. This is a good way to review subtraction facts.

Variations of math baseball include: football, soccer, hockey, basketball, softball, and other sports.

A third fun activity is playing subtraction Jeopardy. In this activity students are given the answers and they have to come up with a subtraction problem that results in the answer given. This is an excellent problem solving interactive activity requiring the use of critical thinking skills to develop these problem answers. It also makes a connection to real world math situations for everyday choices when applying subtraction math for shopping, sports, activities around the home, and choices in life.

A fourth fun way to learn subtraction is by using paint by numbers kits. Students get to paint each numbered part of a picture when they solve an associated subtraction math problem. This teaches students not only the how to solve subtraction problems; it also teaches them how to use critical thinking and problem solving skills as they use the paint by number set to learn subtraction. This type of fun activity teaches them how to problem solve as they hone their subtraction skills and make connections to situations in the real world.

A fifth way is to have a simulated store in the classroom that sells various products, the use of empty containers and plastic foods allow the store to be used more than once. This activity has only one way students can purchase items, the total must result in a certain number or fall within a certain number range to purchase the products.

This creates a problem solving situation in which students must have a sound understanding of subtraction as it relates to other math concepts. These include connections with addition, division, and multiplication. And additional challenge can be by having the answers incorporate sales tax.

The key aspect in all of these fun activities is students' minds are engaged as they learn to solve and make connections as they subtract numbers for applications in everyday life situations.

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