Teaching Division: How to Teach Kids to Divide

Teaching division to kids is like teaching anything to kids. You want to make it as fun and simple as possible and you want to anchor it down in their long-term memory. Here are some tips to help meet your objectives.

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Tips for Teaching Division to Kids

Early on, teach that division involves separating a whole into equal parts; explain the concept of remainders before getting into long division. Playing with hands-on or virtual manipulatives can help kids understand these ideas. Although you can purchase manipulatives from most teaching supply stores, you can also use objects from the classroom.

For example, divide your students into teams of five and give each group a box of ten pencils. Ask them to distribute the pencils so each student gets the same number. Explain that they've been doing division. Other simple manipulatives include buttons, paper clips or a package of dried beans.

Explain that division math facts are the reverse of multiplication facts. So, if 6 x 3 = 18, then 18 ÷ 6 = 3 and 18 ÷ 3 = 6. To facilitate communication about division, teach the division vocabulary - dividend, divisor and quotient.

Vary your approaches and materials. Use visual, audio and tactile methods - begin with manipulatives and add reading, writing, art, music and games.

Teaching Short Division

Read to the Class

Many books for younger children teach division. Some of our favorites include:

  • A Remainder of One and One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes
  • Divide and Ride (MathStart 3) by Stuart J. Murphy
  • Fractured Fairy Tales: Multiplication & Division: 25 Tales with Computation and Word Problems to Reinforce Key Skills by Dan Greenberg

Write Stories and Poems

After they've read some stories about division, let your students write their own stories or poems. Make up a corny one for them, such as:

I have to feed 5 guys 8 pies,
With some left over for me.
If I give each guy one measly pie,
There's 3 for me, you see.

Draw Pictures

Students will likely get illustration ideas of their own from the books you've read. They may have fun creating visual representations of division problems. Using our pie poem as an example, your students could draw the quotient as 5 boys each holding 1 pie, and indicate the remainder as another boy (with a huge grin) holding 3 pies.

Sing and Listen to Division Songs

Many CDs with songs about division are attainable, including:

  • Divide and Conquer Math CD by Mar. Harmon
  • Division Unplugged by Sara Jordan
  • Division, Ages 7-12 by Kim Mitzo, Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand and Ken Carder
  • Learning Math by Song by Barbara Speicher
  • Songs That Teach Division by Kim Mitzo - a CD and a workbook

Play Games

Games that teach division are available for free and for purchase. Formats include computer games, board games and paper-and-pencil games.

Teaching Long Division

Explain the Rules of Divisibility

Once the class fully understands remainders, teach them the rules of divisibility. Comprehending these rules will simplify the estimating process in long division.

Neatly Write Out Every Step

To help your students keep track of the number columns, either use graph paper - writing one number per square - or have them turn their lined paper sideways with the lines as columns. Require your students to show every step of their work. Your students' scores may improve if they're required to show their work by writing out equations step-by-step.

Consider Introducing Double Division

An alternative method of division using longer divisors is called 'double division.' In learning situations, such as homeschooling or 1-room schools, the teacher may choose to teach only the double division method. However, if you're in a school system where not all teachers use or allow that in their classes, you need to teach the traditional long division method.

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