For the early years, subtraction usually amounts to taking something away. We need to have something in the first place (check out the cardinality principle) from which we take a quantity away. This leaves us with a result.
Because we haven't introduced integers (which include negative numbers) children often think the number we take away must always be smaller than the number we started with. If we explain using an example, e.g. temperature, then children begin to consider the possibility of taking away a bigger number. However, to avoid confusion, point out at this stage that we'll stick with problems that take away smaller values from the original.
And unlike addition which can consist of more than two numbers, taking away always has two and only two numbers, with a result.
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