How I Teach Adding and Subtracting Integers

My first year teaching middle school math, I was in survival mode and didn't know how to teach using manipulatives. When subtracting integers I would have students ask me, "why do I need to add the opposite?". I would teach the "rules" instead of showing students the "why". To be honest, it was because I didn't have a clear understanding of the "why" myself. It wasn't until I started creating my own resources that I started to realize how important it was to understand the process, not just learn the rules. This is when I started using counters to help understand why we "add the opposite" when subtracting integers. And let me tell you, I LOVE IT! I have found that my students enjoy using the counters because it is very hands on and helps them understand the whole process behind "adding the opposite".

How to Use Counters to Subtract Integers

Subtracting Integers using Counters

First, you will need math counters. You can purchase math counters or create your own. I purchased the math counters for my students while my husband made bigger counters for myself. I used the bigger counters to make a video showing how to use the counters. I will provide an Amazon link below where you can purchase the math counters for students. Please note that as an Amazon affiliate, I may be compensated for referring sales.

If you are interested in making bigger counters, you would need to go to a hardware store and buy a large circular piece of wood. 

Subtracting Integers using Counters

My husband cut the wood into small circular pieces.

Subtracting Integers using Counters

I painted my negative counters red and my positive counters green. 

Subtracting Integers using Counters

You could match the student counters by painting them red and yellow. Lastly, I used a black permanent marker to write "+1" and "-1" on my counters.

Subtracting Integers using Counters

All done! I LOVE these large counters because they come in handy when making videos or demonstrating in class how to subtract integers.

Subtracting Integers using Counters

Video Showing Students How to Use Counters

After making the counters, I made a video that goes over some examples on how to subtract integers. You can use the video to give you ideas on how you want to implement the counters into your classroom. You can watch the video below!

FREE DIGITAL RESOURCE with Digital Counters

Since Covid, I have made a lot of my resources digital. I decided to make a digital resource that went with my video so that students at home can use virtual counters to help with subtracting integers. 

Subtracting Integers using Counters

Subtracting Integers using Counters

This resource is perfect because it has my video embedded so that students can watch the video and know exactly how to complete the assignment. You can make a copy of my Google Slides resource by clicking HERE.

Interested in more free activities? Don't forget to check out my TPT store for FREEBIES! I currently have 60 free resources!!!

Happy teaching!

- Math in Demand

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