Beginning Subtraction Word Problems

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11698

Are you hungry to learn how to solve word problems? Work with imaginary apples and real crackers to learn to solve subtraction problems that don't begin with pictures or signs. Play some games too!


Arithmetic, Operations and Algebraic Thinking

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • How would you solve this problem?

John has four apples. He ate one apple. How many apples are left?

You don't have to eat apples or be named John to find out!

In the previous Beginning Subtraction Related Lessons, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned how to subtract by using pictures, numbers, and signs.

  • What were the two signs you used?

That's right! You used subtraction (minus) signs and equals signs:

Now, you will learn how to solve word problems that are usually written in sentence form.

There are lots of important things you will need to look for in word problems!

Take a look at this word problem:

Max has ___ goldfish. Then he ate ___ of the goldfish. How many goldfish are left?

  • What is missing?
  • Did you notice the missing numbers?

You can't solve a subtraction problem without any numbers! The first thing you should do is look for the numbers written in the problem.

Look at the problem below:

Max has four goldfish. Then he ate two of the goldfish. How many goldfish are left?

  • Can you find the two numbers in this problem?
  • Did you say four and two are the important numbers in this subtraction problem?

Excellent work! Put out four goldfish (any snack will work) on your learning space table.

There is another part of this problem you need to use. This is the part that asks the question:

Max has four goldfish. Then he ate two of the goldfish. How many goldfish are left?

There are many questions that can be found at the end of a subtraction problem. Some examples of questions are:

  • How much is left over?
  • What's the difference?
  • How many were left?

At the end of the problem, there is a question that asks how many goldfish are left.

This question tells you that you need to take away two goldfish from the group of four goldfish because they are asking how many are left after two have been eaten.

Eat two of your goldfish (or other snack).

  • How many are left?

  • Did you say there would only be two goldfish crackers left?

Great job! You learned how to use subtraction to solve word problems.

Solve the word problem below:

John has four apples. He ate one apple. How many apples are left?

  •  Did you figure out four minus one equals three?

Great work!

In the Got It? section, you will practice solving subtraction word problems.

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