Subtracting one 3-digit or 4-digit number from another

Home learning focus

In this lesson, you will learn how to subtract 3 and 4-digit numbers.

This lesson includes:

  • one video

  • two slideshows

  • one activity sheet


First, let's recap the basics of column subtraction with this video from KS2 Maths.


  • If numbers are too high or too difficult to subtract in your head, you can write them down in columns.
  • Separate the numbers into ones, tens, hundreds and thousands.
  • List the numbers in a column and always start with the ones first.

  • Estimate first and check afterwards - it's a good idea to estimate a rough answer first. And always check your actual answer.

  • Subtraction is the opposite to addition, so subtraction can always be checked by adding. For example you can check that 182 - 37 = 145 by doing the sum: 145 + 37 = 182

  • Look out for these words in problems: take away, difference, less than, minus, decrease, fewer than, reduce. They all indicate subtraction.

Column subtraction

Numbers can be subtracted using the column method.

What is 548 - 125?

Start from the ones column: 8 - 5 = 3

Start from the ones column: 8 - 5 = 3

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When subtracting two numbers in a place value column, if the second number is larger than the first it cannot be subtracted. You need to exchange a digit from a higher column.

What is 343 - 237?

Start from the ones column: 3 - 7

Start from the ones column: 3 - 7

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Can you think how this method could be extended to subtract two 4-digit numbers from each other? Why not give it a try by choosing two random 4-digit numbers?


Activity 1

Now you've learnt more about subtracting numbers, have some fun with this activity from Twinkl.

Subtraction challenge

Click here for the answer sheet.

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS2 Maths
Primary games