6 Strategies for Subtraction with Free Charts

6 strategies for subtraction every 2nd grader should know

When it comes to teaching 2-3 digit strategies for subtraction, you either love it or totally despise it. And to be honest, I think I’ve found myself in both camps before!

How many times have you seen an anchor plastered all over the internet with this catchy subtraction poem?

More on the top? No need to stop! More on the floor? Go to your neighbor and borrow 10 more!

If you’re like me, I’ve seen it SO much! Now, before you start throwing dry-erase markers at me, I am not here to tell you there’s anything wrong with teaching that subtraction strategy poem. However, your teaching of 2-3 digit strategies for subtraction should not start and stop with this strategy alone.

In this post, I’m going to walk you through six subtraction math strategies you should be incorporating into your subtraction unit. PS – If you’re teaching 2-3 digit addition math strategies, click here!

Six 2-3 Digit Strategies for Subtraction to Teach

There are six strategies for subtraction with regrouping that students should practice. As you teach these strategies, students will see some overlap between them, and that’s exactly what you want! They may tackle tough problems using a variety of strategies.

reference charts for 2-3 digit strategies for subtraction
You can download these strategies for subtraction with regrouping charts for free at the end of this post!

1.) Break Apart

Use place value to break down numbers into expanded form, then subtract. If the problem requires regrouping, that’s okay! You can show students how with a number like 73, the expanded form is 70 + 3, but if you need to regroup, 73 can also be shown as 60 + 13. Pull out those base ten pieces if needed!

break apart subtraction example

2.) Number Line

Start with the larger number. Make jumps of hundreds, tens, and ones to subtract the 2nd number.

number line strategy example

3.) Subtract in Chunks

Start at the first number. Then, slowly subtract the 2nd number by subtracting the hundreds, tens, and ones. This strategy is just like using a number line, only you aren’t using a number line!

subtract in chunks strategy example

4.) Base Ten

Make the biggest number with base ten blocks or with base ten drawings. Cross out or remove the hundreds, tens, and ones to subtract. When needed, model ungrouping a ten or a hundred!

base ten subtraction strategy

5.) Compensation

This strategy is all about making the problem easier to solve! To do this, add or subtract the same amount from both numbers. Compensation is one of the more complicated or misunderstood strategies, so I’ve included examples for both 2-digit and 3-digit subtraction problems.

compensation subtraction with 2-digits
Two-digit subtraction using the compensation strategy
compensation subtraction with 3-digits
Three-digit subtraction using the compensation strategy

6.) Standard Model

Line up your hundreds, tens, and ones. First, subtract the ones. Then, subtract the tens. Finally, subtract the hundreds. Borrow if needed.

standard algorithm subtraction with 2-digits

Resources to Help You Teach 2-3 Digit Subtraction

It can be difficult to find resources that include activities for students to practice these subtraction math strategies. That’s why I created this 2-3 digit subtraction strategies unit! It includes posters and activities for all these strategies!

resource cover shows strategies for subtraction activities
Over 100 pages of resources here!
break it down subtraction strategies activity and math center
We’ve created subtraction activities and worksheets for every strategy!

Free Strategies for Subtraction with Regrouping Charts

These one-page reference charts below are the perfect strategy sheets for your students to keep accessible. I’ve created a 2-digit version, a 3-digit version, and a blank template! You can also use this to help you create your own anchor chart(s) with your students during mini-lessons!

free download: strategies for subtraction reference charts

You can download a free copy of these strategies for subtraction with regrouping reference charts! Leave your information below and get a copy sent straight to your inbox!

Be sure to check out this coordinating post all about 2-3 Digit Addition Math Strategies!

Free Subtraction strategies charts

This free chart includes a 2-digit version, a 3-digit version, and a blank version! Leave your email below and print your copy immediately!

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Free Subtraction Strategies Sheet!

This free chart includes a 2-digit version, a 3-digit version, and a blank version! Leave your email below and print your copy immediately!

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