How to Teach Integer Addition and Subtraction Through Hands-On Exploration
To improve your students’ understanding, I have two major recommendations:
Teaching Zero Pairs with Manipulatives
To help students grasp the concept of zero pairs, I think manipulatives are essential. If you’re new to this method check out the videos below. Manipulatives can turn an abstract concept into something students can touch and see clearly.
You choose any manipulatives of your choice to represent positive and negative numbers, but I love using tile spacers! You can buy a bag of 100 from the hardware store for under $2.00. Cut half of them to be minus signs, and give each pair of students ten "positive" pieces and ten "negative" pieces.
If you want to use something readily available, try using manipulatives in two colors - any little counting teddy bears or even cut up paper squares will work
Watch the video below to see how to set your class up to discover the rules for integer addition and subtraction. Then, download the charts below for your students to use for the activity. (Working in pairs is best for this lesson!)
As you can see in the video, using manipulatives to represent integers and zero pairs help to break down a complicated concept. Once you set your students up this way, they’ll have the groundwork to explore and test different cases (see downloadable worksheets below).
When you use an inquiry-based approach in your classroom, students discover mathematical properties for themselves. They investigate and explore, instead of sitting and listening to you presenting a lecture. They can discover the concept themselves, helping them to internalize the new information.
Inquiry helps students develop independent problem-solving skills, deepen their understanding about a specific topic, gain new math confidence, and more! Click here to read more about the benefits of Inquiry Lessons and how to use them.
After I use manipulatives to teach the concept of using zero pairs to add and subtract integers, I have my students get to work on developing rules for this method. Tell your students that we would not want to use this strategy for numbers in the hundreds. Then, ask your students, “Why not?”
Explain that is going to be their job to write the rules for adding and subtracting integers; we need rules that ALWAYS work. I like to have my student write rules in "If ___, then ___" format.
Click here to download the free worksheets to guide your students through this task in pairs or in small groups.
Hopefully, my two favorite methods for teaching students to add and subtract integers resonate with your students and they learn this concept in a breeze! Do you have any tips on teaching adding and subtracting integers? Let us know in the comments below!
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More Inquiry-Based Explorations:
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