25 Subtraction Word Problems for Year 2 to Year 6 With Tips On Supporting Pupils’ Progress

Subtraction word problems are introduced in KS1. Children begin learning to solve simple subtraction and addition word problems in the Early Years. The skills learnt at this stage are developed throughout primary school to upper Key Stage 2, when children should be confident tackling complex multi-step subtraction word problems, using large whole numbers, fractions and decimals.

It is essential that younger children have access to concrete manipulatives and visual images when first introduced to subtraction word problems and addition word problems. These resources aid children’s understanding of the concept and enable them to connect the maths to real-world situations and use their subitising skills.

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As pupils become more confident with the formal written methods of subtraction, they are able to tackle more complex problems, including one and two-step problems and multi-step word problems.

It is important that children are regularly exposed to word problems, alongside fluency and arithmetic activities. To help you, we have put together a collection of 25 subtraction word problems. Which can be used with pupils from Year 2 to Year 6. 

Subtraction word problems in the National Curriculum

Subtraction word problems in Year 1

In Year 1, pupils work with simple one-step word problems involving place value, addition and subtraction word problems. At this stage, concrete resources are a key component of all maths lessons, and are particularly important in helping children to understand what is being asked from any word problems presented to them. Children at this age should be using number lines; memorising and reasoning with number bonds to 10 and 20 and solving basic missing number questions.

Subtraction word problems in Year 2

Pupils in Year 2 build on their knowledge and understanding of subtraction with an emphasis placed on the use of manipulatives and visual images to support understanding. Children solve subtraction problems involving real-life situations, including: measures, money and simple time word problems. They apply their knowledge and understanding of mental methods and begin working on basic written subtraction, using one and two-digit numbers. Pupils are introduced to the concept of regrouping at this stage.

Subtraction word problems in Year 3

By Year 3, pupils begin to work on more complex subtraction word problems. They progress to subtracting three-digit numbers, using the formal column method. Word problems for Year 3 also include solving subtraction problems involving fractions and more complex problems involving mental methods. By this stage students should be getting more confident in checking the accuracy of their calculations, through estimating and finding the inverse. 

Subtraction word problems in Year 4

Pupils in Year 4 progress to solving 2-step problems, deciding which operations and methods to use and why. Word problems for Year 4 involve working with larger 4-digit numbers, using formal written methods and continue to develop their mental methods, including estimation.

Take a look at a lesson slide from Third Space Learning’s one-to-one online Year 4 tutoring programme. With each programme created to fit the needs of the individual student, our online tutoring helps to fill learning gaps, build upon maths skills and increase confidence in maths.

subtraction word problems lesson slide
Lesson slide from Third Space Learning’s online one-to-one year 4 tutoring programme

Subtraction word problems in Year 5

By Year 5, pupils are solving multi-step problems. Word problems for Year 5 include subtracting whole numbers with more than four digits and decimal numbers, using formal written methods. Children also continue to build on their mental skills and should be confident in finding the inverse to check their calculations.

Subtraction word problems in Year 6

Pupils in Year 6 work with larger 5 and 6-digit whole numbers, decimals and fraction word problems. With word problems for Year 6, they also build to solve increasingly complex multi-step problems tackling addition, subtraction, division word problems and multiplication word problems. By this stage, pupils should be confident with the formal written method for all four operations.

Why are word problems important for children’s understanding of subtraction

Subtraction word problems are a great way of bringing subtraction to life, enabling children to see the link between the work in the classroom and how they will need to use subtraction skills in real-life. In Early Years and Key Stage 1, manipulatives are an essential tool when solving subtraction word problems. This continues into Key Stage 2, but will be required less, as children become more confident with the mental methods and formal written methods.

How to teach subtraction word problem solving in primary school

Children need to be taught the importance of reading word problems carefully, identifying the key information needed to solve the problem and discounting information which is irrelevant to be able to solve it. Once they have done this, they need to establish which calculation or series of calculations are needed and whether concrete resources, or drawing a visual image/pictorial representation will help them to solve it.

Here is an example:

A family are driving 1,278km through France to their campsite.  

They have already driven 549km. 

How much further do they have to travel?

How to solve:

What do you already know?

  • The total distance to the campsite is 1,278km
  • The family have already driven 549km.
  • We need to subtract the 549km from the 1,278km, to work out how much further the family have to travel. 
  • If we subtract 549km from 1278km, we get a total of 729km left to travel.

How can this be represented pictorially?

subtraction bar model
  • We can draw a bar model to represent this problem.
  • The total distance to the campsite is 1,278km. This goes in the top bar.
  • We can take off the 549km they have driven already, in the bottom bar. 
  • This leaves 729km left to travel

Subtraction word problems for year 2

In Year 2, pupils solve 1 and 2 digit subtraction word problems. At this stage it is important children have access to a wide range of maths resources, to support their understanding of the problems. They should also be encouraged to draw visual representations to aid their understanding and to help solve the problems.

Year 2 subtraction question 1

Ben has 17 sweets.

He gives 6 to his friend, Jake.

How many sweets does Ben have now?

Answer: 11 sweets

17 – 6 = 11

Year 2 subtraction question 2

Ahmed scores 28 in a maths test.

Hamza scores 13 less.

What score does Hamza get in the maths test?

Answer: 15 marks

28 – 12 = 15

Year 2 subtraction question 3

41 children sign up for the after-school football club

17 change their mind and decide to go for the basketball club instead.

How many are left in the football club?

Answer: 24 children are left in the football club.

41 – 17 = 24

Year 2 subtraction question 4

Maisie has collected 32 stickers 

She decides to give 12 of the stickers to Lucy.

How many stickers does Maisie now have?

Answer: 20 stickers

32-12 = 20

Year 2 subtraction question 5

42 children were on a bus.

At the first stop 7 got off and at the second stop 12 got off.

How many children were left on the bus after the second stop?

Answer: 23 children

42 – 7 – 12 = 23

Subtraction word problems for year 3

Subtraction word problems require children to be confident subtracting  3-digit numbers. Children are becoming more familiar with the formal column method of subtraction, by this stage and should be able to use this knowledge to solve a range of 3 digit subtraction word problems. Money word problems are also common in Year 3 and students will practice using money symbols

Year 3 subtraction question 1

A lorry driver has a 924km journey to make.

He has already driven 588km. How much further does he have to travel?

Answer: 336km further to travel

924 – 588 = 336

Year 3 subtraction question 2

Sam had £10 to spend in the toy shop.

He spent 6.87 on a toy.

How much change did he get from the £10?

Answer: £3.13

This can be calculated using column subtraction,

10.00 – 6.87 = 3.13


It can be solved mentally, counting back in ones and then 0.87, or counting forward in ones from 6.87

Year 3 subtraction question 3

Sophie collected 713 stickers. 

She gave 186 stickers to her friend Chloe.

How many stickers did she have left?

Answer: 527 stickers

713 – 186 = 527 

Year 3 subtraction question 4

A family was driving to the seaside for a day trip.

They set off at 8:30am and arrived at 11:15am

They stopped for a 25 minute break at 9:45am

How long were they driving for?

Answer: 2h20

Total length of trip:

Count on from 8:30 to 11:15  = 2h 25

Driving time:

2h45 -25 min = 2h20

Year 3 subtraction question 5

A runner is taking part in the 400m race. 

He falls at 254m and doesn’t complete the race.

How many more metres did he have left to run?

Answer: 146m

400 – 254 = 146

Subtraction word problems for year 4

Pupils in Year 4 progress to working on 4-digit subtraction word problems. They also move on to solving more complex two-step problems. Children should be encouraged to estimate and find the inverse, to check the accuracy of their calculations. In Year 4, pupils also solve subtraction problems involving fractions and decimals.

Year 4 subtraction question 1

Mr Smith had £9,257 in his bank account.

He bought a car for £6,799

How much money did he have left in his bank account?

Answer: £2458

9257 – 6799 = 2458

Year 4 subtraction question 2

A school printed 8243 worksheets in the Autumn term. 

2768 of these were maths worksheets, how many were printed out for the other subjects?

Answer: 5475 worksheets

8243 – 2768 = 5475

Year 4 subtraction question 3

Ice cream: £2.50

Waffles: £2.99

Doughnuts: £1.80

Cake £1.99

Josie is buying some treats for her friends.

She buys ice cream, 1 waffle and a doughnut. 

How much change does she get from a £10 note?

Answer: £2.71

2.50 + 2.99 + 1.80 = 7.29

10.00 – 7.29 = 2.71

Year 4 subtraction question 4

A runner is competing in the 10,000m race.

She has run 4895m so far. 

How much further does she have to run?

Answer: 5,105m

10,000 – 4895 = 5105

Year 4 subtraction question 5

Oliver has £120 of birthday money to spend.

He buys 2 new games. 1 for £29.99 and another for £35.99.

How much money does he have left from the £120?

Answer: £54.02

29.99 + 35.99 = 65.98

120 – 65.98 = 54.02

Subtraction word problems for year 5

By Year 5, pupils are working with larger numbers of 5 and 6-digits, using formal written method and mental skills. Word problems by this stage, are more complex, multi-step problems, involving all 4 operations. Pupils should be confident estimating and finding the inverse, to check the accuracy of their answers.

Year 5 subtraction question 1

A theme park had 12,507 visitors in February, but 53,309 visitors in July.

How many more people visited the theme park in July than visited in February?

Answer: 40,802 visitors

53,309 – 12,507 = 40802

Year 5 subtraction question 2

A plane uses 14,785L of fuel for its trip.

If it is able to hold 30,000L, how much fuel is left after the trip?

Answer: 15,215L

30,000 – 14,785 = 15,215

Year 5 subtraction question 3

Mrs Brown is renovating her house.

She has a budget of £50,000

She spends £12,870 on a new kitchen, £6,358 on a new bathroom and £3,180 on new carpets.

How much does she have left to spend?

Answer: £27,592

12,870 + 6,358 + 3,180 = 22,408

50,000 – 22,408 = 27,592

Year 5 subtraction question 4

Entry prices:

1 adult: £29.99

1 child: £19.99

A family of 2 adults and 2 children visit a theme park. 

What will the total cost for all 4 be?

How much will they have left to spend on food, if they take £150 in total?

Answer: Cost of tickets: £99.96, Money left to spend on food: £50.04

Adults: 29.99 x 2 = 59.98

Children 19.99 x 2 = 39.98

59.98 + 39.98 = 99.96

150 – 99.96 = £50.04

Year 5 subtraction question 5

The world’s deepest dive is 332.35m.

Tom went diving for the first time and dived to a depth of 39.75m. 

How much deeper would he have to dive, to equal the world record?

Answer: 292.6m

332.35 – 39.75 = 292.6

Subtraction word problems for year 6

Pupils in Year 6 need to be confident in solving word problems using larger whole numbers of up to 6 or 7 digits, in addition to problems involving fractions and decimals. Subtraction word problems in SATs include one-step, two-step and multi-step problems.     

Year 6 subtraction question 1

227,385 people visited a theme park in 2021. 

In 2022, 323,568 people visited, thanks to covid restrictions being reduced.

How many more people visited in 2022 than in 2021?

Answer: 96,183

323,568 – 227,385 = 96,183

Year 6 subtraction question 2

Mason drives 423.6 miles through France, then a further 248.23 miles into Spain.

His hire car has a limit of 1,000 miles.

How many more miles is Mason able to drive, using his hire car?

Answer: 328.16 miles

423.6 + 248.24 = 671.84

1,000 – 671.84 = 328.16

Year 6 subtraction question 3

Mr Stokes paid £42,695 for a speed boat.

He pays £499.99 per month to keep his boat in the harbour.

If he has £50,000 put aside to buy the boat and keep it in the harbour, how much does he have left after 12 months?

Answer: £1305.12

Show calculations:

499.99 x 12 = 5,999.88

42,695+ 5,999.88 = 48,694.88

50,000 – 48,694.88 = 1305.12

Year 6 subtraction question 4

A company had a profit of £3,270,408 in 2022.

This was £897,456 more than the profit the year before.

What was the profit the year before?

Answer: £2,372,952

3,270,408 – 897,456 = 2,372,952

Year 6 subtraction question 5

The flight from London to LA via Auckland is 28,816.7km.

The distance from Auckland to LA is 10,490,9km.

How far is the distance from London to Auckland?

Answer: 18,325.8km

28,816.7 – 10,490.9 = 18,325.8km

Looking for more word problems resources

Third Space Learning offers a wide range of word problems resources for all primary year groups. Take a look at our other collections of word problems covering percentage word problems and ratio word problems.

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