Succeed with maths – Part 1
Succeed with maths – Part 1

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Succeed with maths – Part 1

6 Calculator exploration: negative numbers

You will now learn how to use a calculator for negative numbers – something that can make life a lot easier!

You have plenty of options when it comes to what calculator to use and you may find it easier to use the one that you are most familiar with. This could be a calculator on your mobile phone, on your computer or tablet, an online calculator, or a handheld calculator.

To enter a negative number on a calculator you will usually use the (plus/minus) key.

Find this key now.

How you enter a negative number will depend upon the calculator you are using. For most newer calculators you will need to press the key and then enter the number.

Some may require you to enter the number and then press the key.

You may be wondering which key to use on your keyboard for negative numbers. There is no direct equivalent of the button, but the minus key performs the same task.

Table _unit8.6.1 Table 1 Minus operator buttons

Mathematical operation Calculator button Keyboard key
Negative number The − (minus) key

Now you can have a go at some examples using a calculator.

Activity _unit8.6.1 Activity 7 Adding and subtracting negative numbers using the calculator

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Work out the answers to the following questions in your head first to get some more practice. Then check that they are correct on the calculator.

  • a.2 + (–5)


  • a.Remember the rule that adding a negative number is the same as subtracting the corresponding positive number.

    2 + (–5) = 2 − 5 = –3

  • b.(–4) − 3


  • b.(–4) − 3 = –7
  • c.8 − (–5)


Remember the rule that subtracting a negative number is the same as adding the corresponding positive number.

  • c.8 − (–5) = 8 + 5 = 13
  • d.(–10) + (–2)


  • d.(–10) + (–2) = (–10) − 2 = –12
  • e.(–3) + 3


  • e.(–3) + 3 = 0
Skip Your course resources

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371