Subtraction within 10

We are going to look at three strategies for subtraction: subtraction by crossing out, subtraction using our knowledge of number bonds, and subtraction by counting backwards. As we have already covered number bonds and counting backwards, as well as "one less", some of the skills needed will be familiar to your child, and through work on Addition within 10, so will the format of a number sentence or equation.

Hands On Subtraction Within 10

  • Keeping it real. As always, the best way to start is with real objects. Assemble 10 objects (beans, beads, bricks etc) and give your child a number of them, starting with only 2 or 3. Count the objects together. Now discuss what would happen if you took 1 away. Take it away and count the remaining object(s). Turn it into a number sentence: You had 3 beans. I took 1 away. You have 2 beans left. So 3 take away 2 makes 1.
  • Sweeties. There's nothing like a collection of smartees or similar sweets to keep your child interested in subtraction! Start with 10 and count them out. What happens if you eat 2? So 10 take away 2 makes 8. What happens if you eat 2 more? So 8 take away 2 makes 6. And so on!
  • Vocabulary. Introduce the vocabulary of subtraction into every day conversation. Using "take away" makes more sense at this early stage, as well as "equals" or "is the same as",  "makes" or "leaves".
  • Songs and rhymes. Many children first learn the concept of "taking away" with favourite children's songs and nursery rhymes, like "Five Currant Buns", "Ten Green Bottles", "Five Little Monkey" and "Five Little Speckled Frogs." You will find our printable versions and lots of fun videos too in our Number Symbols section.

Subtraction by Crossing Out

  • Paper and pencil. Write a simple subtraction equation in large numbers leaving lots of space around it - for example, 4 - 2 =. Read it out to your child: "4 take away 2 makes ...." Now draw 4 dots or small circles above the 4, and then, explaining what you are doing, cross 2 of them out. Count how many are left. "So 4 take away 2 makes 2".
  • Line them up. Draw a line of a number of simple objects. Ask your child to count them, then say you want to take some away. Ask your child to "cross out" that number. Now count again.
  • Cross them out cards. Use our printable double-sided cross them out cards (in the Resources section below). Put a row of cards out and count them. Now "take away" a certain number by turning them over. Count the remaining pictures.
  • Worksheets. We have a variety of Subtraction by Crossing Out worksheets for practice below.

Subtraction Using Number Bonds

  • Revise number bonds. Some children will instinctively understand subtraction as one part of the number bond equations and they learned earlier. If 3 and 4 make 7, then 7 take away 4 must be 3.
  • Hands on practice. Grab a collection of small objects and 2 small containers or paper plates. Count (say) 5 objects in one container. Now ask your child to "take away" 3 to the other container. How many are left? Show them that we can represent this as the sum 5 take away 3 leaves / makes 2, or 5 - 3 = 2.
  • Use number bond bracelets (instructions for making these here). If there are 5 beads on the bracelet, ask the child to move 2 apart and count how many are left.
  • Worksheets. There are a variety of different Subtraction using Number Bond Worksheets in the Resources below.

Subtraction by Counting Back

  • Revise skills. Children will already have practiced counting back from a particular number, as well as worked on "one less".
  • Use for 1, 2 or 3 but not more. Counting back can be a useful strategy but for more numbers it can be difficult for children to hold the numbers in their heads.
  • Heads and fingers. Put the first number in your head, and then count down by the number of digits you are taking away. So for 8 - 2 you would put 8 in your head (point to your head and say 8) then count down with 2 fingers ... 7, 6. The answer is 6.
  • Use number lines or numbered ten towers. Choose a number line from our collection here or one of our numbered ten towers. Put your child's finger on the large number and then "hop back" the required number to find the answer.
  • Worksheets. You will find worksheets below which give children practice at subtraction by counting back.

Our Subtraction Within 10 Resources

Colourful Subtraction Worksheets

Colourful Subtraction Worksheets

These five fun worksheets provide practice for simple subtraction practice (all numbers below 10) - and there's colouring in involved, too!

Cross Them Out Subtraction Cards

Cross Them Out Subtraction Cards

These fun double-sided cards have been designed to help children understand subtraction by crossing out with some hands-on practice.

Fill in the Hearts Subtraction

Fill in the Hearts Subtraction

The fourth of our cute fill in the heart worksheets is on subtraction. Children need to use the numbers on the bear's heart to complete the sums.

Five Currant Buns Printable

Five Currant Buns Printable

Sing along (or just read, if you prefer) to the traditional song, Five Currant Buns. It is great for familiarising children with the numbers 1 to 5, and also, of course, is an early introduction to "taking away" or subtracting.

Five Currant Buns Role Play Activity

Five Currant Buns Role Play Activity

Use this lovely printable for a role play activity along with the song Five Currant Buns. Print onto card and cut out, laminating for durability if you wish. You could attach velcro to the back and use on a felt board, too.

Five Currant Buns Worksheet

Five Currant Buns Worksheet

This simple worksheet asks children to match each penny to a currant bun - just like in the rhyme Five Currant Buns. As they do that, colour in one of the numbers from left to right to see how many currant buns are left.

Ghost Subtraction Worksheet

Ghost Subtraction Worksheet

Count the ghosts in each group and write the number below it, then have a go at these simple subtraction sums. Fun for Halloween!

Number Bond Triangles

Number Bond Triangles to 10

These useful number bond cards come in colour or black and white and can be used to help children learn their number bonds to 10, addition within 10, subtraction within 10 and fact families.

Subtracting from 5

Subtracting from 5

All the sums on this fun worksheet are based on number bonds to 5. Children need to fill in the missing addend and write the equation beneath.

Subtraction by Counting Back Worksheets Set 2

Subtraction by Counting Back Worksheets Set 2

We've provided a number line and a cheerful helper on each of these two worksheets, which give children practice at counting back to solve subtraction problems (with numbers less than 10).

Subtraction by Crossing Out Worksheets Set 2

Subtraction by Crossing Out Worksheets Set 2

By using a "ten tower" full of counters - which the children can cross out to work out these subtraction equations - children may be able to see the numbers to take away and the numbers left quickly and clearly and relate them to the number bonds they have already learned.

Subtraction with Number Bonds Worksheets Set 2

Subtraction with Number Bonds Worksheets Set 2

These worksheets are a fun way to make sure that children understand the "story" behind subtraction and see the connection to the number bonds they have already learned. There are 4 in total.

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