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Plus and Minus Numbers

Updated on November 4, 2014

Directed Numbers

In Mathematics plus and minus numbers are called directed numbers. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for children in High School Mathematics is dealing with plus and minus numbers. They keep mixing up the rules for addition and multiplication of directed numbers.

I came up with a way to solve this problem when I was a boy and it is how I have taught my own children.

Adding Plus and Minus Numbers

In dealing with the addition of plus and minus numbers simply see numbers as belonging to either the plus army or the minus army. When two minus or two plus numbers meet they add to make their army bigger. When a plus meets a minus they kill each other.


1) -2 -3 = -5

2) -8 +2 = -6

Multiplying and Dividing plus and Minus Numbers

In dealing with the multiplication and division of plus and minus numbers the student must remember the following two rules:

1. When the signs are different the result is minus.

2. When the signs are the same the result is plus.


1) -3 x 2 = -6 ( Note that if there is no sign in front of a number it is a plus number)

2) -5 x -4 = 20

3) -12 / 3 = -4

4) -35/ -7 = 5

Further Reading

I have also written an article which is published in HubPages titled Life and Death Mathematics which goes into the addition of directed numbers in more detail. Following is a link to that - Life and Death Mathematics

Interactive Maths Tutor Program

I also developed an interactive computer program to teach my own children all the fundamentals of arithmetic, when they were in primary school, which include dealing with directed numbers and learning tables.

My main incentive for developing this program was for them to master the basics in a methodical and consistent way and regardless of who was teaching them in school. I could see how methodology in schools changed from one year to the next which has resulted in many children nowadays leaving school without knowing their tables or being able to do the most rudimentary calculations without a calculator. The program is also patient and non-critical so the child does not pick up all of the negative vibes that parents can give off unwittingly while doing their best for their children.

All of my children mastered the basics of arithmetic in this way and have excelled at the subject. The program is available commercially and can be purchased by contacting me.


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    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Thank you Real for your very flattering compliments, the cheque is in the post! LOL!

      Here is something I think you should see -

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I have said it before and I will say it again- you are just too darned smart. I mean it - highly intelligent and very astute:) You are the man with many good answers!

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Thank you Nell

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, I know maths are supposed to be logical but they just aren't! lol! how on earth can -8 plus 2 = -6? not logical! and why oh why did mathmaticians come up with such a stupid equation in the first place? if you have -8 then plus 2, it has to come to +2, not minus 6 because if there was minus anything then it doesn't matter anyway! haha! sorry too much Big Bang Theory, love Sheldon! haha. seriously though, anyone who can figure out maths is a genius to me, great hub! cheers nell

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Thank you phdast7 and Frank Atanacio your comments and support are greatly appreciated.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      a very good hub my friend :)

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      What a great approach to plus and minus numbers. Two of my sons really struggled with this years ago. I wish I had been able to help them using your ideas. Very interesting and helpful Hub. SHARING

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Ruby your comment is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your consistent support.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Thank you Alastar that means a lot coming from you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Don't be discouraged. Math is very difficult for some people. I am sure the reason being they did not have an article like this to help them when first learning..Well done..Bravo..

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      First off, I encourage any one with high school or younger children to check this hub out. Mathematics isn't my forte but this is quite interesting as is the interactive computer program you came up with Spirit. You came up with an ingenious solution to the plus minus prob too. There's more to my Irish friend than meets the hypnotherapy!

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      I am sorry to hear that my hub was unable to get you over your fear of maths. So that means back to the drawing board I guess! Thanks for dropping by and telling me what a failure the hub has been. :)

    • profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago

      Hi. Useful hub for the kiddywinks. I didn't get past the first example I just detest maths!