How to Teach Integer Addition and Subtraction Through Hands-On Exploration
Teaching your students to add and subtract integers can be tricky. The concept of zero pairs does not come easily to many students, so it really helps to have awesome, engaging lessons prepared when introducing this topic!
The hands-on method described here is great for the first introduction to integer operations, but is also a great re-teaching strategy for those 10th graders who still are frustrated with integers.
It can take being exposed to integers over and over for years before some students really gain confidence.
Try this lesson for ANY level of students and approach it as if they have never seen integer addition or subtraction before (whether they have or not!)
- Provide manipulatives to teach zero pairs
- Incorporate inquiry when introducing this concept
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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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