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Subtraction Math Strategies

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Math has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach.  I think one of the main reasons why I enjoy teaching math so much is the variety of strategies that can be used to solve a math problem.  After reading this post you’ll learn four different subtraction math strategies that your students could use to help boost their understanding and math problem solving abilities.

Subtraction Math Strategies:

Below you will see four different subtraction math strategies that your students might use.  Each student will be in a different spot with their math strategies. For example, some students need the concrete/manipulatives and place value strategy will be best for them.  Other students might be really good at breaking numbers apart and using them in different ways – then break apart or expanded might be best for them.  With math strategies there is not a one size fits all type of mentality.  Students can use a variety of strategies and will move through them at different rates when they are ready.

Place Value Strategy:

Photo of place value strategy

Draw out how many there are to start with – 95  Then, take away or cross out how many are being taken away – 56.  Start by crossing out the 5 tens for 50.  Then, you have 5 ones and you can’t take away 6 from 5 so, take a ten and regroup it into 10 ones.  (Circle the ten and change it into the ten ones (dots)).  Now, you can take away the 6 ones.  Then, count what is left – 10, 20, 30, and 9 more so 39.

Empty Number Line Strategy:

Photo of empty number line subtraction math strategy

First, draw an empty number line.  Then, start at the number that you’re beginning with – 95.  95 will go on the right side of the empty number line because you are subtracting so your number will be getting smaller.  Then, 56 can be taken away a few different ways. In this example, they first took away 50 and got to 45. Then, took away 5 and got to 40 (friendly number) and one more and got to 39.  Students could also take away all 6 ones.  The 50 could also be broken down into – 20, 20, 10 – 10, 10, 10, 10, 10 – 30, 20 – 40, 10 – etc.

Break Apart Strategy:

Picture of break apart strategy

For break apart, leave the first number together since this is the number that you are starting with.  Then, break apart the number that you are taking away.  So, 56 would break into 50 and 6 (expanded notation).  Then, 95 – 50 = 45 and 45 – 6 = 39.  

Expanded Form Strategy:

Photo of expanded form strategy

First, change each number into expanded notation. 95 = 90 + 5 and 56 = 50 + 6.  Then, subtract the ones from the ones.  You can’t take away 6 from 5.  So, you take ten from the 90 to add to the ones.  When you take ten from the 90, the 90 turns into 80.  Then, add the ten you took to your ones 10 + 5 = 15.  Now, you can subtract.  15 – 6 = 9 and 80 – 50 = 30.  Then put the numbers back together 30 + 9 = 39.

Subtraction Practice:

Photo of subtraction word problem resource

If you’re looking for some subtraction practice pages for your students to practice these strategies – I have worksheets already created for you.  Best part is – they are differentiated into 3 levels! These Subtraction Word Problem Printables are great for independent practice, homework, formative assessments, and more. Check them out here >>> Subtraction Differentiated Word Problem Worksheets.

If you are interested in learning about Addition Math Strategies, check out my blog post>>>HERE.

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Addition Math Strategies

Blog header with photo of addition math strategy.

Math has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach.  I think one of the main reasons why I enjoy teaching math so much is the variety of strategies that can be used to solve a math problem.  After reading this post you’ll learn four different addition math strategies that your students could use to help boost their understanding and math problem solving abilities.

Variety of Math Strategies:

While in math there is typically one right answer – there are many different ways you can get there. When I was in school I was good at math and got the right answer, but had no idea how or why.  For addition, my teacher taught me one way – with carrying over and I did and I got the answer. But, I didn’t really understand the “why” behind the math. What I love about teaching math now is we let kids figure it out for themselves.  We give kids a chance to explore multiple strategies and find the right one for them. There is no more one size fits all.  I wish I had learned math this way when I was younger (and please know I’m not faulting my past teachers – this is just the way it was taught then).

Addition Math Strategies:

Below you will see four different addition math strategies that your students might use.  Each student will be in a different spot with their math strategies. For example, some students need the concrete/manipulatives and place value strategy will be best for them.  Other students might be really good at breaking numbers apart and using them in different ways – then break apart or expanded might be best for them.  

Students can also move through the strategies.  One student might start with place value strategy, but as they become more comfortable in math they then move on to empty number line or one of the others. Students aren’t pigeon holed into their strategy. Think of it almost like a buffet where they can try the different strategies and see which one works best for them.

Place Value Strategy:

Example of place value addition math strategy. Students use base-10 blocks to solve the problem.

Start by drawing out the place value model using base 10 blocks for each number.  Students would draw 3 tens sticks and 9 ones dots to represent 39 and then below 2 tens sticks and 8 ones dots to represent 28.  Then, count the ones.  There are 17 ones.  Since there are more than 10, you would regroup.  Circle the ten ones and draw an arrow to the new ten that you made over in the tens area.  Then count up your tens (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60) and 7 ones and your answer will be 67.

Empty Number Line Strategy:

Photo of empty number line strategy.

For empty number line strategy you start with an empty line.  Students have a choice and can either start at 39 or 28.  This is a great learning opportunity to talk about what is more efficient.  It would be easier to count up 28 then 39.  So on the left side of the number line, place the number 39.  Then, for counting there are multiple options.  We want to avoid students counting all 28 by ones so they can break it into tens and ones. Some students might start at 39 and jump 10 to 49 and 10 to 59 and then count up 8 ones to get to 67. Some students might start at 39 and jump 20 to 59 and then 8 ones to get to 67. There are multiple ways students can use the number line to help them solve the problem.

Break Apart Strategy:

Photo of break apart addition math strategy.

For the break apart strategy it is just what it sounds like – students are going to break the numbers apart into tens and ones. 39 breaks into 30 and 9. 28 breaks into 20 and 8.  Students will then add 30 and 20 and get 50. Then, add 9 and 8 and get 17. Then they’ll add 50 and 17 to get 67.

Expanded Form Strategy:

Photo of expanded form addition math strategy.

This is one of my favorite strategies and it is very similar to the break apart strategy.  Students will start by writing both numbers in expanded form.  39 expands to 30 + 9 and 28 expands to 20 + 8. These numbers will be written vertically on top of each other (ones on top of ones, tens on top of tens).  Then students add straight down.  9 + 8 = 17. The student will write down 7 in the ones spot and then move the 10 up to the 10s spot.  Then add 10 + 30 + 20 = 60.  Then, put the numbers back together 60 + 7 = 67.

Addition Practice:

Photo of 3 addition word problem worksheets.

If you’re looking for some addition practice pages for your students to practice these strategies – I have worksheets already created for you.  Best part is – they are differentiated into 3 levels! These Addition Word Problem Printables are great for independent practice, homework, formative assessments, and more. Check them out here >>> Addition Differentiated Word Problem Worksheets.

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8 Ideas for Teaching Place Value

Math, Math Stations
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This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

Place value is an important foundation skill for all students to master. It sets them up for success as they continue their journey through mathematics. After reading this post, you’ll have 8 ideas for teaching place value.

#1 – Place Value Books

I love using books to introduce new math topics! Here are a few of my favorites books to use when teaching place value.

Place Value by David A. Adler

Picture of Place Value book cover. Monkeys holding numbers above their head.

A Place for Zero by Angeline Sparagna LoPresti

Picture of book cover for A Place for Zero.

Earth Day – Hooray by Stuart Murphy

Picture of book cover for Earth Day Hooray

How Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz

Picture of book cover for How Much is a Million

#2 – Manipulatives

Manipulatives are so important for students to use when building math skills. Place value is no exception! I always have base-10 blocks on hand for my students to use when we are working on place value and other math skills. The blocks are very popular and some people also like using the place value discs to model different numbers.

Picture of base 10 blocks

#3 – Shorthand Base-10 Trick

In addition to using manipulatives, I like to have my students draw out their base-10 or place value model for numbers.  But, I don’t like them to spend hours trying to draw the ones, tens, hundreds, etc. Many of them like to try to draw each teeny tiny square within the hundreds block – we don’t have time for that lol.  So below in the picture you’ll see the short hand I teach them. This is much more efficient. Students draw a dot for ones, a stick for tens, a square for hundreds, and a square with a “th” in the middle for thousands.

Photo of short hand for place value blocks.

#4 – Food

Who doesn’t love food? We all know students are more engaged when food is involved. Base-10 blocks and drawings are great, but you can also incorporate food into the mix.  Students can represent numbers using Saltine crackers for the hundreds, pretzel sticks for the tens, and M&Ms or some kind of round candy for the ones.  And of course when they are done they can have a taste of their work!

Picture of saltine cracker, pretzel stick, and M&Ms.

#5 – Teaching Place Value Anchor Charts

I use anchor charts for all math topics including place value.  I like to create my anchor charts with my students so they are more engaged and part of the creation process which makes them more likely to refer back to it later.  After we create our charts, I hang them where they can see them so they can refer back to them as needed. Here are a few examples of ones I’ve created…

#6 – Differentiate Practice and Homework + FREEBIE

Students will need opportunities to practice and demonstrate their understanding of place value. I like to use these differentiated worksheets for independent practice, homework, and formative assessments!  My classes typically have multiple levels of students and these worksheets are differentiated into 3 levels so I can meet the needs of all of my students!  These worksheets are available in my TPT store>>> HERE.

Picture of place value worksheets.

You can also check out a FREE sample >>> HERE.

Picture of place value worksheets FREEBIE.

#7 – Place Value Activities + FREE Game

I love using a variety of place value activities during my math rotations or stations.  These activities are still focused on the standards, but provide opportunities for kids to move around and work with a partner.  

Here are a few options:

Great for Around the Room or Scoot – 

Expand It – Practice using expanded notation

Write It – Practice writing numbers in standard form from word form

Place Value Around the Room Task Cards – great review of a variety of place value skills

Partner Opportunities:

Read It – Students can practice reading the numbers to each other – this could also be done chorally whole group

Show Me the  Number – This activity is great for kids to use the base-10 blocks to build the numbers.  2- and 3-Digit Numbers

3- and 4-Digit Numbers

Picture of Reading Numbers Activity


Roll and Compare – Students can practice comparing 2-, 3-, or 4-digit numbers using comparison symbols. This game is great to play during rotations or stations.

Picture of comparing game.

You could also save 20% by grabbing all of the Place Value Activities in my Place Value Bundle.

#8 – Digit Place

This is one of my favorite games to play with my students when I am teaching place value. This game can be played whole group – it’s great for a math warm-up or a Morning Meeting Activity and could eventually be played with partners once students get the hang of it.  

Here’s how you play:

  1. You make 3 columns on the white board – Guess | Digits | Place
  2. I also put up numbers 0-9 so we can cross off numbers after we eliminate them – there is a lot of strategy in this game too.
  3. You think of a secret number that the kids will have to figure out – this can be 2-digit, 3-digit, 4-digit, etc – depending on your class’s needs.
  4. Your students will guess a number. *Let’s say my secret number is 352.  They guess 201.  I will then write their guess in the guess column and write a 1 in the digits and a 0 in the place because they got one of the digits correct (2), but that digit was not in the correct place.
  5. We keep going until we get to the correct number

*This game has some strategy to it too.  I will often have students figure out if the guess all of one number it can help us quickly figure out what the 3 digits are. For example, if they guess 999 and I say 0 numbers are correct – then we know 9 isn’t one of the numbers.

Photo of Digit Place Game for Teaching Place Value Ideas
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Football Room Transformation

Math, Reading, Writing

So today I am super excited to share with you my room transformation that I did a few weeks ago.  For my first room transformation this year I decided to do a football theme. What started out as just a transformation for a math review turned into why not make the whole day football themed! Go big or go home – right?? So this room transformation took on a life of it’s own and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!  In this blog post I’ll take you through the decorations and different events of the day.  I had a blast and my kids had a blast! It was probably one of the best days we’ve had this school year so far.


Room Transformation Info:

For the room transformation I got items from Amazon, Party City, and we made many of them too.  The football backdrop and football runner were from Party City. My ref shirt came from Amazon. I printed and made the football logos.  My teaching aide made the tablecloths with a football stamp and the other football signs.  The decorations definitely helped set the mood!

Each child had their picture taken in front of the backdrop. The posed with the football. I so wish I could show you the pictures because some of them took it rather seriously!


If I Were a Football Player Page:

During morning meeting, which I called a team meeting, we discussed some of the questions on the page above. Students then got to create their football name, pick their number, decide the team name, mascot, etc.  They had fun being creative and coming up with some interesting mascots and names!


Jersey Design:

Next students got to design their own jerseys. I showed them a few examples of real NFL and college jerseys and then they got to work. They used their team colors and number on the jersey. The t-shirt page was from Heather Toomey.


Football Math Review Game:

When students came back from PE I had the game set-up for them. I used a long football yard-line table runner on the floor and that was how we showed we each team earned a point (10 yards) for each correct question. When they came in the room I had the Sunday Night Football song playing to get them pumped up and ready!

I broke the class up into two teams for the math review game. Each team had a designated “captain” who came forward for the coin toss. Another teacher happened to stop by so she became our NFL commissioner and actually tossed the coin for us!  Heads won and off we went!

The review game included some of the questions above. This unit in math covered items such as: combos of 10, counting and adding on, solving word problems, identifying and labeling numbers.  Teams worked together to figure out the answer and a different child gave the answer each time to make sure everyone was included. Each time they got an answer correct they earned 10 yards. I planned it ahead of time so that each team would end up with the same points so we had no hurt feelings.  At the end of the game, each team added up all of their tens to see who won! Since each team won, each player got a football bracelet from Party City that had sports sayings on it.


Football Math Stations:

To continue reviewing for out test we also completed math stations with activities practicing the different skills.  The football popcorn holders held the activities and these were from Party City. Each group rotated to each station as you can see below.


This activity was completed with my teaching aide. She would give the kids a number and they would fill it in on the ten frame. Then she would ask further questions like how  many more would you need to make 10.

This tens frame Around the Room activity I got on TPT from Resource Ranch. Students would add the two numbers together and record their answer on the recording sheet.

Students worked on football story problems when they came to my station. I created similar problems but differentiated the numbers to meet the different levels in my classroom.

Students worked on ordering numbers at this station. There were baggies with ten numbers in it and the kids had to put them in order from least to greatest.  The football numbers are from Teacher Trish.

At this station students played Memory with the football cards.  This was a great way to practice combos of 10!



During reading we read and discussed the story Football Dinosaurs.  Then, during snack we watched the Tiki Barber story on Tumble Books.



To tie in writing, students wrote their opinion about their favorite sport. We brainstormed all the different kinds of sports and students picked one to write about. They also had to give a reason for their choice.  This page is from The Simplified Classroom.



All in all this one was of my favorite teaching days ever! We had so much fun and was I tired at the end of the day!  You exert so much energy during days like this that I had no trouble going to sleep that night!


Stay tuned…I have another room transformation coming in a few weeks! Be sure to follow me on Instagram to stay up to speed with all of the latest in my classroom!



Strategies for Multiplying by Multiples of 10


One of the skills we cover in second grade (which I know is often a third grade skill) is multiplying by multiples of 10. This can off scare kids as you are using larger numbers, but I knew my kids could handle it. To make it a little less scary, I introduced it using a story problem. I put the problem below up on the board and read over it with the kids.

Then, I told the kids to solve it on their white boards at their seats. I didn’t give any prompting or suggestions, I wanted to see what they would come up with on their own.  Boy was I pleasantly surprised! They had amazing strategies! As you’ll see below they came up with multiple different ways to come to the answer.  They all understood it was equal groups and they used strategies we had talked about with multiplication – drawing out equal groups, skip counting, repeated addition, breaking apart numbers, etc. I was so proud of them. After giving them time to solve I had students bring their white board up to explain their strategies to the class.

This honestly was the best way I have ever introduced it. Instead of me telling them how to figure it out or only showing them the trick (8 x 3 = 24 so 8 x 30 = 240), they really took them time to try to figure it out for themselves. And it helped because on future problems they knew multiple strategies they could use to solve it.

See their awesome strategies below…




Test Prep Review Ideas

Math, Reading

It’s getting to be that time again….the dreading testing season is about to begin! I know April and May can be quite chaotic for teachers with all of the end of the year activities, but it is also chaotic with all of the testing!  We test in early May so April tends to be a lot of review. And, while reviewing can be boring, I’ve done a few things the last year or two to spice it up a bit.

Reviewing content is important throughout the year, but refreshers are always good as testing approaches. Last year I wanted to freshen things up a bit and try to make reviewing as fun as possible.  One way I did this was by changing up the way we reviewed each day.  For example, in math, we reviewed different skill areas each day. One day we worked on place value, one day operations, one day patterns, etc.  To keep it fresh, we reviewed these skills in different ways. This way no two days was the same. And – it helped! The students enjoyed reviewing more and were more engaged (which is the whole point of this :-)!)

Here are some ideas for how to review math skills…these can be applied to different grade levels and skills:

  • Egg Hunt – Yes, I know Easter is over, but an egg hunt is fun for everyone. To practice our operations skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) I created an egg hunt for my kids.  They were able to go around the room hunting for eggs and then they had to solve the problems inside the egg on the recording sheet. They loved it!  I also differentiated by putting more difficult problems in certain colored eggs and more on-level problems in others. This way I was able to challenge the kids who were ready.

  • Match-Up – Another activity I did was a match-up activity with partners. Students had the multiplication or division problem and had to match the problem with the answer card.

  • Around the Room – Kids need to move and they especially need to move as we get closer and closer to the end of the year. Last year I created an Around the Room activity to review place value. It included expanded form, place value model, comparing numbers, and writing numbers in standard form.  Kids were up and moving and able to review the different place value skills we worked on. You can find Place Value Review – Around the Room in my TPT Store…here.  I also created an Around the Room activity to review the pattern skills that we did a different day to avoid repetitious review activitie

  • White Board Review – Another skill we reviewed was understanding story problems. Our standards include being able to solve story problems, but also being able to identify the operation and the number sentence that matches. I put a PowerPoint together and the kids would respond to the question on their white boards and then we’d do a quick show and discussion.


  • Kids Sharing Out – This was an idea I saw on Instagram last year and I wish I could remember where because it is genius!  I put different operation and story problems on larger poster paper around the room. Students then went around and solved the problems on their own recording sheet.  Once they finished that, I partnered the kids up and gave each partnership one of the hanging poster boards.  They had to solve that problem on the chart paper. Then, they had to get up and present to the class how they solved it.  Great way to practice math communication and review!




I know many of these ideas are focused around math, but you could still use the same review activities, but with reading or ELA skills. I will also be doing language arts and reading review with lots of task cards.  For reading – I also highly recommend looking at ReadWorks. They have tons of multiple choice passages like the students will see on many of these standardized test.

How do you review for standardized testing? Share your ideas in the comments…

Be sure to sign up for my email list below! This Tuesday (April 10) I will be sending out a FREEBIE to all of my email subscribers with some cute testing signs you can use during testing season!