Help with 2/3 digit Subtraction and learning Place Values


This is one of the many great way for little minds to wrap their heads around subtraction and place values, especially if borrowing is involved.

Subtraction can be difficult for little minds to understand. I can personally attest to that since I have sat many a homeschooling day with a frustrated child just wanting to get past this subject. But one of the greatest reasons to homeschool can be that the parent has control of how curriculum is to be taught. Even being able to change the way a subject is taught just a little, can make all the difference in the world.

I will not take the credit for this idea, I stumbled across it one afternoon while looking for anyway at all to help my daughter. Out of all that I found, I let her look at each idea and she chose which she thought would help.

I really hope if your little one is having troubles this helps them – and you!

Legos can be a wonderful tool for teaching and showing perspectives, but here we use them to show the movement of borrowing in subtraction. Also, the different sizes of the Legos will also help show the differences of place values.

The first thing to do is to get your Legos gathered. For 2 digit subtraction we used square 2×2 pieces. We have 9 singles (for the ones) and 9 sets of 10 (for the tens). For 3 digit subtraction we use the Legos for the 2 digit along with rectangular 2x4s, 9 sets of 10 (for the hundreds). We have all mixed colors with the blocks that we chose, but if you want to, you can separate them further by color to help with understanding place values.

Other supplies that we used are plain white paper, a top loading sheet protector a wipe-away marker, and eraser.

The first step is to write on the paper a blank subtraction problem. I also separated the ones, tens, and hundreds places with a line to help my daughter keep the numbers lined up. Then slip it into the top loading page – and done!

I love quick and easy, there is so little of it in life!

When working problems just write the numbers on the top loading page and count out the Legos that are needed. Then work the problem. It may take a few times for you child to understand it, but hopefully it won’t take long and they will start to understand quickly. Then once the problem is done, just use the eraser and clean off the top loading page and get ready for the next problem.

I hope this helps!


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