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Subtracting with the Number Line

# Subtracting with the Number Line

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Comprehensive Teacher's Guide, Grades 3-4 Lesson 2-4
Comprehensive Teacher's Guide, Grades 3-4 Lesson 2-4

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07/12/2013

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Subtracting with the Number Line
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A
basic view of subtraction is one of “separating”or counting back”froma given amount.This process is easily modeled on a number line.Aninitial quantity is shown on the line and then some of the blocks are takenaway.Subtraction is also used to make comparisons and to find how manymore are needed.These actions can be modeled on the number line as well.Eventually students should connect these various models and realize that ineach case,they can follow the same procedures to find the difference.
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Separating Blocks on the Number Line
To demonstrate, present a story problem such as theone that follows.
There were 51 marbles in a bag.Sam and Ebony take out 26 marbles to play a game.How many marbles are left in the bag?
Ask a volunteer to model the story problem on twonumber lines. The students will place 51 blocks on oneline and then slide 26 of those blocks to the second line.After the volunteer has found the answer, ask,
What number sentence can you write to represent this situation?
When students have agreed to the sentence 51 – 26 =25, make sure they can relate the numbers and signs totheir actions with the blocks and to the story problem.Then ask,
How many marbles will there be in the bag when the childrenput the marbles back?What number sentence could you write to represent this action?How can this help you to check your work?
Have students work in small groups with blocks andtwo number lines. Two students place some blocks on the number line, andtwo other students slide some of those blocks to the other line. Once familiar  with the task, students should record their work. Some students may use the words
subtract
or
take away
, and some may write number sentences. Groups of students can then tell their classmates what they did and share their recordings.
Students model subtraction on the numberlines by sliding some blocks to a second lineand finding how many remain on the first line.
Focus
Exploring the relationship between additionand subtraction and developing mentalcomputation skills

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Note that students may find different ways to use the number line. For exam-ple, to find 73 – 48, some students may place the 73 blocks, remove 48 fromthe beginning of the line, and then count the remaining blocks. Although not very efficient, this approach does work. Over time, as students keep demon-strating their techniques to one another, more efficient methods will develop.Students will learn to push the blocks back to the beginning of the line inorder to find how many are left. If students continue to take blocks from theleft and count those that remain, you might ask,
Is there a way to use the number line to find how many,
without
counting blocks?
®
Predicting Differences
As students solve subtraction problems, encourage them to think about what will happen when they remove the blocks and to predict the difference beforethey actually do so. Initially, students may use their hands to approximate thelength of the second quantity and then think about decreasing the firstamount by that length. Some students may note the number of longer hashmarks (tens) in the smaller quantity, and count back that amount from thelarger quantity. You might also provide a benchmark, asking questions such as,
Will there be more or less than 10 blocks after you take away the blocks?
Finally, ask the students to predict exact outcomes before they remove theblocks. Students can place markers on the line to show their predicted answers. Begin with examples such as 34 – 12, then challenge students with examples with larger differences, such as 68 – 13, and finally with examples that requireregrouping, such as 72 – 39. Students then remove the blocks to check.Invite students to explain how they arrived at their predictions. Some studentsmay recognize that to predict 72 –39, they can think about 72 – 40+1. If noone suggests such an approach, ask.
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Exploring Other Meanings of Subtraction
Once students develop a clear sense of the “take-away” or separation model,explore other meanings of subtraction. For example, students can investigatestory problems that involve comparison and finding how much more is needed
I have 25 newspapers to deliver.You have 34 newspapers to deliver.How many more newspapers do you have to deliver than I do?
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Mr. Truong has \$68.He needs \$91 to buy a train ticket.How much more money does he need?
Students may model these situations in a variety of ways. For the first prob-lem, students may use two separate number lines and place them closetogether to compare. This is fine. Over time, help them to realize that suchcontexts can be demonstrated in a manner similar to the take-away model.For example, they can show or imagine the second group on top of the firstgroup of blocks, and then take that amount away and find the number thatremains. Such explorations are important to developing students’ sense thateach of the different contexts can be investigated through subtraction.Do not insist, however, that students connect all “missing part” problems tosubtraction. For example, even though we can use subtraction for the secondproblem, seeing it as \$91 – \$68, many students instead add up to find thenumber needed (“\$68, \$78, \$88, \$89, \$90, \$91, so that’s \$23”). Studentssimply need to explore, share, and understand a variety of viable techniques.
Practicing Key Ideas
Taken from a Line
Write some numbers on index cards,one number per card.Students work in pairs. They turn over two cards,determine the larger number,and show that number on anumber line.Students then take away the smaller number of blocks and record thecorresponding number sentence.Students begin again by clearing the number lineand turning over two more cards.
Predict Exactly
Students play in teams of two.The first team places some blocks on a number line. The second team names a number of blocks they will take away.Each team places amarker on the line to show how many they predict will be left when the blocks areremoved.Students then remove the blocks to check.The activity is repeated withteams reversing roles.
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