Subtraction to 30 using simplification

Subtraction to 30 using simplification

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Subtraction to 30 using simplification

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Students learn that they can split a subtraction problem into tens and ones and use the subtraction problem with ones as a first step to subtract with tens.

Common core standard(s)



It is important to learn this to help make subtraction easier and faster to do.


Start with a few counting exercises on the interactive whiteboard to 30. Have students count quantities and then explain their strategies for counting. It is possible to skip count in 2s, 3s, 5s or one by one. Then decompose the numbers to 30 into tens and ones. An example is splitting 23 into 20 and 3.


Show students a set of subtraction problems that use simplification. Ask students if they notice anything about the subtraction problems. They should notice that the difference between the two problems is 10. Namely that 10 is added to the first number (minuend) and to the difference. These subtraction problems are related. Tell students that you can sometimes solve a subtraction problem with tens faster if you first solve the subtraction problem without the tens. You can use that difference as a first step. If you know 6 - 2 = 4, then you can quickly determine that 16 - 2 = 14, and 26 - 2 = 24. Practice this with MAB blocks on the interactive whiteboard. Drag the blocks that you take away to the trash can, so you can solve the subtraction problem. Ask students how many blocks are left. Emphasize that they don't need to recalculate the subtraction problem, because they can use the first step they already solved. 10 is added to the subtraction problem, so 10 is also added to the difference. Check if students are able to solve a subtraction problem without blocks on the interactive whiteboard as well by using the example of colored pencils. First with 9 - 4, then with 19 - 4, and then with 29 - 4. Do a few more subtraction problems with the students, but without visual support. They can imagine the MAB blocks in their head to help imagine the ten that is added to the second step of the subtraction problem.

Check that students understand subtraction to 30 using simplification by asking the following questions:
- 7 - 2 = 5, That means 17 - 2 = ?
- 14 - 3 = 11. 24 - 3 = 32. How do you know this is true?
- 6 - 3 = 3. Which subtraction problem(s) can you now easily solve?

Guided practice

Students first are given subtraction problems in which the subtraction problem with ones is given and they must solve with tens. Then they must solve the subtraction problems with tens and ones. Finally they are given subtraction problems from 20 or 30 regrouping tens.


Repeat why it is important to learn how to subtract using simplification. It makes subtraction easier and faster. If you know the subtraction problem of the ones, you can easily solve the subtraction problem with the tens. Check that students have understood by doing two subtraction problems as a class, one with visual support and one without.

Teaching tips

Students who have difficulty with this can make use of the rekenrek. For example- show them 7 - 3, and then 17 - 3. Repeat this with other numbers. Emphasize that they don't need to recalculate the difference, but that this is a first step to solving the subtraction problem with tens.

Instruction materials

optional: rekenrek

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