How to Find Sum or Difference of Math Problems

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Math problems are diverse and can range in complexity from simple arithmetic to the upper levels of calculus. Understanding how to calculate the sum or difference of numbers is the foundation for many higher-level problems and an important skill in itself. When these numbers are added together (represented by the "+" sign), the resulting answer is called the "sum." When a number is subtracted from another number (represented by the "-" sign), the result is known as the "difference."

Finding the Sum

    Follow the order of operations and begin by completing any math located in parentheses. For example, if the math problem is 2 + 2(4-1), first subtract 1 from 4. Use a calculator or do the calculations in your head or on paper.

    Multiply and divide any numbers that require it from left to right. Any numbers immediately before a parenthesis are multiplied by the numbers inside the parentheses.

    Add and subtract the remaining numbers in the math problem. The sum will be the result of adding numbers, while the difference will be the result of subtracting them. For instance, in the math problem 4 + 3 - 5, the sum of 4 and 3 will be 7, and the difference between 7 and 5 will be 2. In this example, 2 is the final answer to the math problem.


    • These steps are useful in basic arithmetical formulas, whether by themselves or as part of a more complex math problem. They are the foundation of higher levels of math, such as sine, imaginary numbers, square roots and derivatives.


About the Author

Clifton Watson started writing and editing in 2008. He edited the "American River Review" and maintained a number of online blogs for Unitek College. Watson has an Associate of Arts in liberal arts from American River College.

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