Subtraction Involving Negative Numbers: Connecting to Whole Number Reasoning

In this article, we explore how students attempt to bridge from their whole number reasoning to integer reasoning as they solve subtraction problems involving negative  numbers. Based on interviews with students ranging from first graders to preservice teachers, we identify two overarching strategies: making connections to known problem types and leveraging conceptions of subtraction. Their initial connections suggest that rather than identifying the best instructional models to teach integer concepts, we should focus on identifying integer instructional models that build on the potentially productive connections that students’ already make; we propose an example of one such form of instruction.

Bofferding, L. & Wessman-Enzinger, N. (2017). Subtraction involving negative numbers: Connecting to whole number reasoning. The Mathematics Enthusiast, 14(1, 2, & 3), 241-262.