What is Subtraction? How to Subtract Numbers? (Methods, Rules & Examples) - BYJUS

Subtraction of Numbers

Subtraction is the process of taking away objects from a group of objects. It is one of the four basic operations in mathematics. When we subtract a number from another, we get the difference between the two numbers. This difference is always smaller than the bigger number of the two numbers that were involved in the subtraction. We use a minus (-) sign to denote subtraction. Learning subtraction will help us solve many day-to-day problems easily....Read MoreRead Less

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What is Subtraction?

Subtraction means taking away from a group of objects or numbers. When we subtract, the number of things in the group reduces. In subtraction problems, a minus (-) symbol is used to perform this mathematical operation.

What are some Frequently-used terms in Subtraction?

The following are some common terms in subtraction you will come across: (subtraction strategies)


  • Minuend – It is the first and larger number from which you take away.
  • Subtrahend – It is the smaller number after the “-” symbol that is being subtracted from the minuend.
  • Difference – The answer we get after solving the subtraction problem.



Here is a fun fact that will help you remember subtraction more clearly:




  • While subtracting a number from itself, the answer will always lead to zero. For example, 6 – 6 = 0.
  • While subtracting, the order of the numbers matters. For example, 3 – 2 is not the same as 2 – 3.
  • While subtracting, any number minus zero will be equal to itself. For example, 4 – 0 = 4. 

Helpful Resources for Kids

Revise Math formulas and important concepts using our Math worksheets! These worksheets help students to develop Math skills in a fun and interesting way. Click the link below to get all the easy-to-comprehend math calculators and worksheets.

Solved Examples on Subtractions

Example 1: You have 5 pies. You give 2 pies to your friend. How many pies are you left with?


Solution: First, form the subtraction equation for this problem. Here, 5 is the larger number, which will be the minuend, and 2 is the subtrahend, which will be the amount that would be taken away from the minuend 5.


5 – 2

Now, subtract to find the difference.


5 – 2 = 3

Therefore, you are left with 3 pies. 


Example 2: You have 6 berries and you eat 2 of them. How many berries are you left with?




Solution: That means you are left with 4 berries.


Example 3: There are 10 baseball bats in a shop. The shopkeeper sells all the 10 bats. How many bats are left in his shop?


Solution: Form the subtraction equation for this problem. 


10 – 10

This will be equal to zero as the shopkeeper had only 10 bats and all of them were sold.


Hence, the shopkeeper has no bats or 0 bats. If you remember, a number subtracted by itself will result in 0.


10 – 10 = 0


That means there won’t be any baseball bats left in the shop.


Example 4: Joseph has 5 balloons. Ginny has 3 balloons. How many more balloons does Joseph have?


Solution: To figure out how many more balloons Joseph has, we need to calculate the difference between the number of balloons Joseph and Ginny each have. Hence, we need to subtract the numbers.


The subtraction equation is 5 – 3 = 2


The answer is that Joseph has 2 more balloons.


Example 5: Use the “get to 10” strategy to find 16 – 9.


Solution: We can use counters to find the difference.





So, we start at 16. We subtract 6 to get to 10.


16 – 6 = 10.


Now, we can write 9 as 6 + 3 as well. So, we will subtract 3 more from 10.


10 – 3 = 7


Thus, 16 – 9 = 7.  7 is the answer.


Example 6: Richard bought 6 shirts for himself. His younger brother, Jake, asked him for a few shirts, but Richard didn’t give him any. How many shirts does Richard have now?


Solution: Number of shirts Richard bought = 6


Number of shirts Richard gave to Jake = 0


The subtraction equation for this problem is 6 – 0.


This will be equal to 6 itself as the value of zero equals nothing, and when you subtract zero from any number, you get the number itself as the answer.

So, Richard has 6 shirts for himself.


Example 7: Betty bought 4 balloons. As she started walking back home, one of them burst. Betty started crying, but her sister consoled her, saying she still had some balloons remaining. How many balloons does Betty have now?


Solution: Betty had 4 balloons initially, but one of them burst. So we need to subtract 1 from 4,
So 4 – 1 = 3

Frequently Asked Questions on Subtractions

Here are some facts about subtraction that will  solidify your knowledge of math skills.

  • It is essential to know that subtraction means taking away or finding the difference. For example, 12 – 5 can be interpreted as, “What is left when you take 5 away from 12?” Let’s use pens in this subtraction problem.  If you have 12 pens, and you give away 5 pens, you will be left with 7 pens.
  • Subtraction is the opposite of addition. Let’s take the number 5 and add 3 to it, 5 + 3 = 8. Now let’s subtract 3 from 8, 8 – 3 = 5. This means, if we add and subtract the same number, the original number does not change. Hence, addition is the opposite of subtraction.
  •  Subtraction can be done using a number line.

Let’s find 6 – 2 = ? using a number line.

First, draw a number line and start from the number 6.


Now, to subtract 2, move to the left of the number line twice. 




As you can see, we reach 4 on the number line. Therefore, 6 – 2 = 4

In a subtraction equation, the minuend is the first and larger number from which you take away, while the subtrahend is the smaller number after the minus (-) symbol that is being subtracted.