Adding and subtracting integers can be a tough concept for middle school math students to comprehend. Especially if students have been taught that subtract always means to get smaller. I wanted to share some tried and true successful ways to teach students how to successfully add and subtract integers.

1) Use number lines: Number lines are essential when introducing adding and subtracting with integers. I always found it easier to give students a paper with a bunch of number lines on them to speed up the process of teaching. Having students draw number lines for each problem can take a lot of time. Another thing that I have done was to give students one number line in a protective sheet. Then they use a draw erase marker to draw on the number line for each problem. They can just erase the arrows after each problem. Also, students love dry erase markers...so they always creates extra engagement.

2) Teach subtraction as adding the opposite, then have students rewrite subtraction problems into addition problems. For example, 5 - (-3) changes to 5 + 3, because you add the opposite of the second number. Another example, -4 - 6 changes to -4 + (-6). Having students circle the second number also helps those struggling with distinguishing between the subtraction sign and the negative sign. You might need to remind students that when there is no written sign such as in -4 - 6, then 6 is positive, but then you will flip it to a negative.

3) Lots of practice with basic numbers: Don't jump to adding and subtracting large value integers until they have a really good conceptual understanding. Do lots and lots of number lines and rewriting subtraction into addition.

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