Story Problems: Subtraction

Contributor: Erika Wargo. Lesson ID: 12097

"45 - 15 = ?" This problem may seems pretty easy, but what if the numbers are "hidden" in a story problem? Learn the three easy steps to solving story problems!


Arithmetic, Operations and Algebraic Thinking

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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I had 60 cookies. I ate 30 of them. What do I have now? A tummy ache, but how many cookies are left?

Story problems are an important part of math.

They help you understand how you will use most math skills in your life, especially when thinking about money.

When working with word or story problems, it is important to be able to find the important information so you can solve the problem correctly.

One kind of math story is a subtraction story problem. Subtraction story problems include words and phrases like, "took away," "are left," and "spent." In a subtraction story, there is "some total amount" and "some taken away" from the total to give us "what is left."

You need to look for these numbers in the story and do the necessary math. You can write a subtraction equation to help you answer these types of questions. It is important to remember that in a subtraction problem, the largest number is the number you usually start with and take the other amount away from that number. So, when you write your stacked equation, put the larger number on top.

When you are faced with solving a subtraction story problem, follow these steps:

  1. Sort out the important information in the story problem (Underline the question.).
  2. Write the equation (Circle the important numbers and details. Are you starting with the largest number?).
  3. Find the missing number (Solve the problem.).
  4. Ask yourself: Does the answer make sense? Or Is the answer reasonable? (Check your work.)

Important Questions

  1. What do you want to know?
  2. Where could you start?
  3. What strategies, including drawing objects or pictures, can help you solve the problem?

Now that you know the steps needed to solve subtraction story problems, let's go to the Got It? section to practice!

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