How to Help Your Kids Learn Subtraction Facts

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My twin girls are in second grade this year, and have been working on subtracting 2- and 3-digit numbers. They understand the process of regrouping, and can successfully solve the problems in their work, but I was noticing that one of my daughters was starting to get “stuck”, almost reluctant to even begin her math work, even though she knew what to do.

She kept making comments that she didn’t know what to do, and couldn’t do it (even though I knew she could!).

When I got to the bottom of the issue, it turned out that although she knows how to subtract, she had a hard time quickly recalling her subtraction facts. So when she was asked to practice subtracting 3-digit numbers, she was getting discouraged because one problem took quite a lot of effort.

It can be easy to want to skip the process of learning math facts, but the truth is (as I’m learning!), it is so important! If kids don’t have those basic facts down, they can struggle with larger math problems and even begin to lose confidence in their ability to do math. So the drills, flashcards, and games you do to practice these skills truly make a difference.

It can be easy to want to skip the process of learning subtraction facts, but it's so important!  Here's how to help your kids learn their facts.

I think it’s also important to keep in mind how different each of our kids are, and how they learn differently. My son (oldest) picked up on the basic addition and subtraction facts pretty quickly, and we didn’t have to “drill” them very much. I kind of took it for granted that my daughters would be the same way, because they do well at math too.

But no matter what grade your kids are in, it’s not too late to go back and get a little extra practice on the basics when needed! Sometimes you just need to take a step back and realize that pushing ahead in the curriculum isn’t the best option for the moment.

Subtraction Fact Review Flash Cards

I stumbled upon Kate’s Homeschool Math Help and found some great suggestions for teaching and reviewing subtraction facts. Following the ideas she listed, I created some printable subtraction fact cards I could use to help my girls strengthen their subtraction facts skills.

The cards I created aren’t anything fancy, but they are color-coded to align with Kate’s suggestion of the order she has found helpful to teach the facts in. She suggests breaking the facts into groups so kids can build confidence in mastering the easier facts first, then progressing to more difficult facts to memorize.

The subtraction fact cards are broken up into the following groups by color:

  • -1 and -2 facts (yellow cards)
  • -3 and -4 facts (red cards)
  • Close-together numbers (gray cards)
  • Subtracting 5, 6, and 7 from numbers up to 10 (orange cards)
  • -9 facts (pink cards)
  • -8 facts (black cards)
  • Subtracting 3, 4, and 5 from numbers greater than 10 (blue cards)
  • Subtracting 6 and 7 from numbers greater than 10 (green cards)

How to Use the Subtraction Facts Flash Cards

You’ll want to print out the cards, laminate them for durability, and then cut them out. I separated the cards by color and put them in snack-size baggies so I could easily grab whatever color we were working on.

Teaching Subtraction Facts

There is a sheet included in the printable that lets you know what color cards to work on and in what order. I put a check mark next to the color once my kids have mastered that set, and then we move on to the next color.

Once they have mastered a couple of groups, you can begin mixing them together for further practice.

How Do I Know When the Facts are Mastered?

I don’t think there is any strict rule for this, but you want your students to be able to recall the facts quickly with little thinking time.

I considered the cards mastered when they could say them in an average of less than 3 seconds per card. My kids really like to be timed to see if they can beat the timer; so for example, if a set has 12 cards in it, I would set a timer for 36 seconds to see if they could beat it.

Another thing we do (again, as a suggestion from Kate’s Homeschool Math Help!) is use a 10-frame to visualize the harder facts. I think it’s really important to use hands-on manipulatives when we can, and it really has helped how my kids think about their facts when they can see how the numbers work together.

There is a 10-frame included in the printable below you can use with some counters as your kids visualize the problems.

Teaching Subtraction Facts

I hope these cards can be helpful for you in your homeschool! Simple, but effective for quick practice when you need it. Grab them below for free:

Subtraction Facts Practice

Make sure you check out Kate’s Homeschool Math Help to read her entire article.

Finally, since it’s nearing Valentine’s Day, I’ve also got two worksheets to share with you for practicing addition and subtraction. Because everything is more fun when it’s got a theme, right moms?

Click below to print out two freebie practice worksheets you can use in your homeschool, on Valentine’s Day or anytime, really! And don’t forget to Pin the image to share the love with other homeschool moms:

Drop a comment below: do your kids like practicing their math facts? What are some fun tools you have used to work on these skills in your homeschool?

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