The first four fundamental math operations that a child should learn are – Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division. These math operations form the basis of all math problems. For kids to grasp and understand division, learning the first three operations is not mandatory but they are crucial.
Teaching division to children, like all the other math concepts, can be quite challenging. However, it is not as challenging as it would seem as there are easy ways to help children learn and understand division. To increase the efficiency of the teaching process, it is essential to make sure it’s interesting and enjoyable for kids.
Terminology of Division
There are majorly three terms that are important to be taught and remembered by children when learning about division. Let us understand it through the “bus stop method”. The bus stop method is the written method of division and the reason it is named such is because of its ‘bus stop’ appearance. Take an example, 28÷7, where,
(i) The dividend is the number being divided. It is written inside the ‘bus stop’, i.e., 28.
(ii) The divisor is the number the dividend is divided by. It is written outside the ‘bus stop’, i.e., 7.
(iii) The quotient is the answer or how many times the divisor fits into the dividend. It is written on top of the ‘bus stop’, i.e., 4.
To make it easy to learn, children can memorise it as Dividend ÷ Divisor = Quotient.
Introducing Basic Division
Initially, it will be difficult for children to fully comprehend how division works so to make it simple, try breaking down and labelling each term in a way the child can understand. Explain to them how various items can be distributed equally amongst groups to help them understand it.
Introducing division to kids through the concepts of sharing and grouping is one of the most common and effective ways. It will be easier for children to grasp these concepts of division if it is illustrated with the help of practical examples and visual aids. They process new and slightly complicated information quickly if they can see it and interact with it.
Using the example 28 ÷ 7, label the numbers, gather items (like marbles, candies, etc.) and present it to the child and begin teaching – 28 (the dividend) is the number of marbles being shared amongst his/her friends, 7 (the divisor) is the number of friends and 4 (the quotient/the answer) shows how many marbles each friend will receive. This is known as the concept of sharing.
Another way is to directly ask the child to divide the objects into smaller groups. For example, give the child 28 marbles and tell them to put the marbles in boxes of 4. Ask them how many boxes will they have? The child will put the marbles in a box one at a time and end up having 7 boxes. This is known as the concept of grouping.
Division is generally taught in terms of sharing and grouping. The child will either be asked to ‘share an amount equally amongst sets/individuals’ or ‘group an amount into equal sets.’ The difference between the two concepts is quite subtle. The dividend in both these concepts remains the same but the quotient is slightly different. In the concept of sharing, the quotient shows the value of each equal share (i.e., 7 friends get 4 marbles each) whereas in grouping, the quotient shows the value of the number of groups (i.e., 7 boxes of 4 marbles each).
Symbols used for Division
Although this step appears straightforward, it is simple to miss. Familiarise children with both the signs/symbols used for division – the division sign (÷) and the forward slash (/).
To clarify when the symbols should be used, try writing a division problem while saying it aloud. For instance, 12 divided by 2 can be written as 12÷2 or 12/2.
Dividing numbers evenly
Give the child a few easy and simple math problems which consists of numbers that divide evenly. Remind them that division efficiently breaks larger groups into smaller ones. For example, present the child with math tasks such as 5/5, 25÷5, 30/5, etc. which are easily divisible.
Division with Remainders
When it is certain that the child has understood the basics of division including dividing numbers evenly, it is time to take a step forward and introduce the concept of remainder. Start by defining remainder as the residue value of the division problem where the number cannot be evenly divided. For better understanding of the concept of remainders, try giving the child a certain number of manipulatives (blocks, chocolates, balls, etc) that cannot be divided evenly or into equal groups.
For example, put in front of the child 9 chocolates and ask them to divide these chocolates into groups of 4 or give 15 blocks and ask the child to divide them into groups of 6. In the example using chocolates, the remainder will be 1 chocolate as each of the 4 groups will have 2 chocolates whereas in the next example, the remainder will be 3 blocks because each of the 6 groups will have 2 blocks.
Give children extra division problems to practise division with remainders so that they can master it more quickly. Prepare a worksheet having division tasks focusing on division with remainders such as 13/2, 22/4, 30÷7, etc. Provide the children some objects or items for assistance if they need to do grouping.
To solidify the concept of remainders, explain the reasoning behind it. Once they understand the concept, ask them to divide a division problem and explain why they have the remainder. For instance, let them solve 12/5 or 12÷5, ask them why are they left with 2 as remainder? Help them reach to the conclusion that 5 does not go evenly into 12. If they are unable to explain it, then try a different problem and use manipulatives to explain the problem. For example, 5÷3, give the child 5 balls and ask them to evenly divide it amongst his/her 3 friends. Then inquire if it is possible to split the 5 balls amongst his/her 3 friends equally? Lastly, explain what the remainder is and why 5/3 cannot be divided evenly.
Creative Ways to Make Division More Fun
Reading books about division
A picture book keeps young children interested while also educating them about new ideas through stories. Here’s a list of books for teaching division to kids –
- The Great Divide by Dayle Ann Dodds
- One Hungry Cat by Joanne Rocklin
- The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
- The Great Divide: A Mathematical Marathon by Dayle Ann Dodds
- A Remainder of One by Elinor Pinczes & Bonnie Mackain
Learning the divisibility rules
Learning and memorising these tricks related to division, makes it easier for children to divide big numbers.
Division through food
For learning basic division, try using different food items. Ask children to perform the following division tasks through these food items –
(i) ask them to divide, for example, apples, equally amongst family members.
(ii) tell them to divide, say, 10 boiled eggs evenly into plates of 2.
(iii) hand them 5 candies and ask them to distribute it amongst 3 friends.
Colourful math worksheets
Particularly when it comes to division, practice is essential and there are lots of interesting questions related to division as well as addition, subtraction and multiplication on math worksheets.
Keep them engaged by giving manipulatives to use as they work through the equations. Encourage them to draw or picturise the problem to make it more fun. Worksheets are a great way to assimilate information so ensure they are colourful and full of interesting activities to make learning easy as well as enjoyable.
In conclusion, many kids struggle with division, especially young children who are just getting started, so have patience. Rushing them will decrease their likelihood of learning. Additionally, pursue a learning method that is enjoyable and engaging because that may prove to be more successful than the monotonous or mundane methods of learning. Last but not least, a child becomes proficient in division by practising it frequently.