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Grade 6
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Introducing the Concept

Adding and Subtracting with Negative Numbers

Your students have worked with adding and subtracting negative numbers and integers on a number line last year, but it is a good idea to start by reviewing the basic skills of adding and subtracting on a number line. This will provide a visual model of what they are doing and should help them understand and remember the rules.

Materials: Make a large number line to put on the board up front or on an overhead transparency for students to demonstrate how to do the problems.

Prerequisite Skills and Concepts:Students should know how to add and subtract positive numbers using a number line.

Use the large number line you made or the one you made on the overhead transparency.

  • Point to various points on the number line and Ask: What is this point? What is this point? What kinds of points lie to the left of zero on the number line?
  • Ask: Who would like to come up and show us how to add 5 + 3 using the number line?
  • Ask: Who would like to come up and show us how to add 5 + negative3 on the number line?
    You may need to demonstrate this. Explain that you start with the 5 and then go the directed distance of the number that follows when adding, in this case -3 units or 3 units to the left.

    Have students do the following examples of adding integers at their desks, and then have volunteers demonstrate the solutions for the class: 3 + (negative7); negative4 + (negative3); negative5 + 7; negative6 + 2; 8 + (negative4). Put a list of all the problems done on the board off to the side for students to refer to as you ask the following questions.

  • Ask: : If we add two negative numbers, is the sum positive or negative? If we add two positive numbers, is the sum positive or negative?
  • Ask: If I add a positive number with a negative number, how can I tell if the sum is positive or negative?
    Stress that the sign of the sum of a positive and a negative number depends on which number is farther from zero.
  • Ask: What is the relationship between addition and subtraction?
    Students will probably say they are inverse operations or that subtraction "undoes" addition.
  • Ask: Since negative3 + 5 would mean to go 5 units to the right from negative3 on your number line, what does negative3 – (+5) mean on your number line?
    Hopefully they will say to do the opposite of going 5 units to the right and instead go 5 units to the left. If they don't, tell them that subtraction means to go in the opposite direction of the number that is to be subtracted. Give them a new problem: 4 – (negative3).
  • Ask: Who can show us how to do this new problem using the number line?

    Pose several more subtraction problems for them to do at their desks.

  • Ask: Who can summarize what you do when you add on the number line?
    Make sure they go to the first number on the number line, and then they go the directed distance of the second number.
  • Ask: Who can summarize how to subtract integers on the number line?
    Make sure they go to the first number, and then they go the opposite of the directed distance of the second number.
         Adding and Subtracting
       with Negative Numbers
       Multiplying and Dividing
       with Negative Numbers

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