The Best Way to Teach Students to Add Integers (Guaranteed!)
I don’t have to tell you how important it is that students master the skills of adding and subtracting integers.
These skills are so fundamental to all of algebra, and if they struggle here, they will likely get more and more frustrated in the coming months and years.
Fortunately, there’s a super-easy way to teach them to add and subtract integers. A method that will help them quickly master this vital skill & build their confidence that they really can do math.
The key? Don’t try to get them to memorize a bunch or rules. Instead, help them understand what’s really going on by having them draw a picture.
This method isn’t widely known, but I know from first-hand experience how well students understand this method and how strong their skills become as a result.
Take a minute and watch the first couple minutes of each of these videos. These are videos of me explaining how to add and “subtract” integers using this method:
How to Teach Students to Add Integers:
Key Points for Adding Integers:
*Teach students to think of the – symbol as a negative instead of thinking of it as subtraction.
*When students are first learning these skills, require them to draw pictures every time. The picture helps them really think through exactly what is happening, and before long they won’t need the picture anymore. But if they ever get stuck, they’ll have it to fall back on.
How to Teach Students to “Subtract” Integers:
Key Points for “Subtracting” Integers:
*Don’t even call it subtracting. Remember that we are going to think of the – symbol as a negative. Students shouldn’t think of these problems any differently than they do adding integer problems.
*Teach students to think of the numbers as positives and negatives and there is an understood + sign in between that they can write in if they’d like. Then, they should draw the picture as normal.
*Teach students that when two negatives are right next to each other (with nothing except maybe a parenthesis in between), they become a positive. –(-) = +
If you teach your students how to add integers using this method and keep going back to the picture whenever they get stuck, I guarantee you’re going to see lots of confident smiles as they master this skill in no time.
Update: I’m thrilled to bring you a completely FREE integers unit from MathLight, our sister website. This unit includes awesome explanation videos that use this method, along with everything else you need to teach integers.