Subtraction word problems

Subtraction word problems arise in any situations where there is a loss or a decrease of something as a result of deducting a number from another. Think of subtraction as removing parts from a whole. Consider the following situations.

Problem #1:

Peter has 20 dollars in his pocket. He buys a 32 ounces vanilla ice cream for 8 dollars. How much is Peter's change?


In this situation, Peter is experiencing a loss because some money will be taken away from him for the ice cream.

Therefore, we need to do subtraction


Peter's change = 20 - 8 = 18 dollars

Problem #2:

Suppose that a car dealer has an inventory of 15,258 Honda Accord they have to sell by the end of 2008. Suppose they don't meet their goals and sell only 12456 Honda Accord by the end of 2008. How many cars are left in the back yard?


In this situation, we are removing parts from a whole to get the leftover.

Therefore, we do subtraction


Number of cars in the back yard = 15258 - 12456 = 2802

Problem #3

At a local supermarket, a box of cereal usually costs 5.56 dollars. This week, the supermarket sells the box of cereal for 3.42 dollars. How much money will you save if you buy this cereal at this supermarket?


In this situation, there is a decrease in the price.

Therefore, we use subtraction.


Saving = 5.56 - 3.42 = 2.14 dollars

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