Full Digi-Block Activity

Model and Record 2-Digit Subtraction
• To make connections between blocks, drawings, and numerical representations of 2-digit subtraction problems • To model subtraction with blocks and to represent the process with a drawing



Students model 2-digit subtraction with blocks. They articulate the process and develop a pictorial recording technique.

Each pair of students needs: 1 block-of-100 (Students can unpack to get the blocks they need for particular problems.) 1 place value mat with digit cards 2-3 copies of Recording Subtraction activity sheet

Everyday Math Connection
This activity uses Digi-Blocks to model subtraction with and without regrouping. When students see that a quantity needs to be regrouped in order to subtract, they need only unpack a block-of-10, rather than make a trade. The structure of the blocks makes regrouping easy and obvious to students. A sequel to this activity, “Recording Subtraction Part II,” can be found online in the Weekly Pack-It at www.digi-block.com. In that activity, students begin to develop an algorithm as they record the process numerically.

Unit 6 Activity A

Model and Record 2-Digit Subtraction


82 - 38 = 44
tens ones

Class Introduction

20 min


Display a 2-digit subtraction problem, such as:
82 – 38

Have students read the problem aloud and describe to you what it means. Ask,
What is the problem telling you to do?

tens ones

leaves 44

Have students think about what the problem will look like before they build it with blocks. Ask,
How can I begin this problem using blocks on the mat?

- 38


Figure 1

Have students model the minuend (beginning number) on a place value mat. • Next, have them suggest how to separate, or take away the 38 blocks from the 82 blocks. • Allow students to realize they must unpack 1 block-of-10 before they can subtract. • It is helpful to have students move the blocks to another mat, possibly on a second student’s desk. (See figure 1.) • Have students set the digit cards to show the amount remaining (44). Pass out copies of the activity sheet and have students write the problem. Ask,
How can we record what we’ve done with the blocks?



Have volunteers demonstrate how they can sketch blocks to show the number 82. • Remind students that drawings do not need to be works of art. It is only important that they can distinguish among the different-sized blocks. • Encourage students to show how they subtracted 38 from 82 in their drawing. Let them invent their own notation (i.e. arrows, loops, etc.) and have them share their drawing. • Students may cross off the block-of-10 they unpacked and draw ten single blocks. (See figure 2.) • To show the blocks they removed or separated, students may circle the blocks and draw arrows to where they place the blocks. (See figure 3.) Present another subtraction problem:
73-56 This time I am going to ask you to solve this problem without using the blocks! Draw a picture to show how you would use the blocks to solve this problem.

Figure 2

• Be sure that they somehow represent the regrouping idea. If students get stuck and are


Unit 6 Activity A

Model and Record 2-Digit Subtraction

not sure how to proceed, have them use the blocks to help them. • Share drawings of the blocks and have students explain how they determined the solution to the problem. • Include a problem that does not require regrouping, such as 38 – 25. Discuss why this problem doesn’t require any unpacking.



Group Activity

20 min

Have students work individually or in pairs. Distribute more copies of the activity sheet. List a variety of problems on the board or chart paper from which students will choose one or two to solve: Figure 3
43 – 26 62 – 37 56- 24 74-38

As students are working, have them describe what they are doing. Ask:
Can you show me the ____ (larger number/total) in your drawing? How did you show that you took away (subtracted, separated) this number, or part? What does this (point to a part of the picture) show? Where is your answer?


20 min

Display a problem that several students have chosen to solve. Have volunteers share and compare their drawings. Encourage students to ask questions of one another in order to help them clarify their explanations. • Continue until all problems are discussed. • If time permits, it may be helpful to make transparencies of several drawings, so students can see their classmates’ work more easily.

Assessment As students are solving problems observe and note, do they: 

Rely solely on the blocks to solve the problem? Solve the problem from a drawing of the block model? Represent the blocks and describe the procedures they use accurately and clearly? Distinguish between problems that need regrouping and those that do not?   

Unit 6 Activity A

Model and Record 2-Digit Subtraction


Name Recording Subtraction


Problem: 1. Draw the blocks to model the problem: Tens Ones

2. Write about what you did:


Unit 6 Activity A

Model and Record 2-Digit Subtraction

Student Book pp. 20-21

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