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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Model subtraction of integers
  • Simplify expressions with integers
  • Evaluate variable expressions with integers
  • Translate words phrases to algebraic expressions
  • Subtract integers in applications

Before you get started, take this readiness quiz.

  1. Simplify: 12 ( 8 −1 ) .
    If you missed this problem, review Use the Language of Algebra .
  2. Translate the difference of 20 and −15 into an algebraic expression.
    If you missed this problem, review Subtract Whole Numbers .
  3. Add: −18 + 7 .
    If you missed this problem, review Add Integers .

Model subtraction of integers

Remember the story in the last section about the toddler and the cookies? Children learn how to subtract numbers through their everyday experiences. Real-life experiences serve as models for subtracting positive numbers, and in some cases, such as temperature, for adding negative as well as positive numbers. But it is difficult to relate subtracting negative numbers to common life experiences. Most people do not have an intuitive understanding of subtraction when negative numbers are involved. Math teachers use several different models to explain subtracting negative numbers.

We will continue to use counters to model subtraction. Remember, the blue counters represent positive numbers and the red counters represent negative numbers.

Perhaps when you were younger, you read 5 3 as five take away three . When we use counters, we can think of subtraction the same way.

Doing the Manipulative Mathematics activity "Subtraction of Signed Numbers" will help you develop a better understanding of subtracting integers.

We will model four subtraction facts using the numbers 5 and 3 .

5 3 −5 ( −3 ) −5 3 5 ( −3 )

Model: 5 3 .

Solution

Interpret the expression. 5 3 means 5 take away 3 .
Model the first number. Start with 5 positives. .
Take away the second number. So take away 3 positives. .
Find the counters that are left. .
5 3 = 2 .
The difference between 5 and 3 is 2 .
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Model the expression:

6 4


This figure shows a row of 6 light pink circles, representing positive counters. The first four are circled.
2

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Model the expression:

7 4


This figure shows a row of 7 light pink circles representing positive counters. The first four counters are circled.
3

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Model: −5 ( −3 ) .

Solution

Interpret the expression. −5 ( −3 ) means −5 take away −3 .
Model the first number. Start with 5 negatives. .
Take away the second number. So take away 3 negatives. .
Find the number of counters that are left. .
−5 ( −3 ) = −2 .
The difference between −5 and −3 is −2 .
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Model the expression:

−6 ( −4 )


This figure shows a row of 6 dark pink circles, representing negative counters. The last four counters are circled.
−2

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Model the expression:

−7 ( −4 )


This figure is a row of 7 dark pink circles representing negative counters. The first four counters are circled.
−3

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Notice that [link] and [link] are very much alike.

  • First, we subtracted 3 positives from 5 positives to get 2 positives.
  • Then we subtracted 3 negatives from 5 negatives to get 2 negatives.

Each example used counters of only one color, and the “take away” model of subtraction was easy to apply.

This figure has a row of 5 blue circles. The first three are circled. Above the row is 5 minus 3 equals 2. Next to this is a row of 5 red circles. The first three are circled. Above the row is negative 5 minus negative 3 equals negative 2.

Now let’s see what happens when we subtract one positive and one negative number. We will need to use both positive and negative counters and sometimes some neutral pairs, too. Adding a neutral pair does not change the value.

Model: −5 3 .

Solution

Interpret the expression. −5 3 means −5 take away 3 .
Model the first number. Start with 5 negatives. .
Take away the second number.
So we need to take away 3 positives.
But there are no positives to take away.
Add neutral pairs until you have 3 positives.
.
Now take away 3 positives. .
Count the number of counters that are left. .
−5 3 = −8 .
The difference of −5 and 3 is −8 .
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Questions & Answers

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x-2y+3z=-3 2x-y+z=7 -x+3y-z=6
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Solve for the first variable in one of the equations, then substitute the result into the other equation. Point For: (6111,4111,−411)(6111,4111,-411) Equation Form: x=6111,y=4111,z=−411x=6111,y=4111,z=-411
Brenna
(61/11,41/11,−4/11)
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x=61/11 y=41/11 z=−4/11 x=61/11 y=41/11 z=-4/11
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Need help solving this problem (2/7)^-2
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x+2y-z=7
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-1
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the operation * is x * y =x + y/ 1+(x × y) show if the operation is commutative if x × y is not equal to -1
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Source:  OpenStax, Prealgebra. OpenStax CNX. Jul 15, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11756/1.9
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