Understanding and Solving Division Story Problems

You'll start solving story problems with division as early as 3rd grade, but you'll use this skill throughout your life to tackle real-world problems. Keep reading for an explanation of division word problems!

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Word Problems with Division

When to Use Division

The first step in solving word problems is to figure out which operation is required. Do you need to use division, or can you solve the problem using addition, subtraction or multiplication? One clue that a word problem requires division is that it will give you information about a group of things, and then ask you to figure something out about the individual parts of that group.

For instance, you might be given the total price of 20 apples and asked to figure out the price of one. Or, you might be told that a class of 30 students is being divided up into a certain number of groups, and then asked to figure out how many students will be in each group.

Identifying the Divisor and Dividend

Once you've decided to use division to solve a problem, you'll have to figure out which number is the divisor and which number is the dividend. The dividend is the number that's being divided up into parts. For example, in the problem given earlier about finding the price of one apple when you know the price of 20, the total price of all 20 apples would be the dividend.

The divisor is the number of groups that you're dividing the dividend into. If you're told that 20 apples cost $40.00, you would divide $40 into groups of 20 to represent the money spent per apple. In this case, 20 would be the divisor. To solve this problem, divide the dividend (40) by the divisor (20) to get the answer (40 ÷ 20 = 2). Each apple costs $2.00.

How to Report Your Answer

Now that you've solved your division word problem, it's important to report the answer properly in order to get full credit. Some teachers will take off points or even mark your whole answer wrong if you don't accompany your solution with the correct units.

In the apple example, the units were dollars because the question asked about the cost per apple. You might also be asked about units of measure, like kilograms, grams or liters. To report answers in these units, you can use their abbreviations, which are kg, g and l, respectively.

For problems involving measures of length, you might report your responses in centimeters (cm) or meters (m). Keep in mind that if your response refers to the area of a 2-dimensional object, the answer should be given in units squared, but if it only refers to length, it can be given in standard units.

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