Laying the Groundwork for Teaching Division
Division is that part of math class that seems daunting to teachers and students alike.
I remember watching my older brother do long division. His homework pages had problems that seemed so long they looked as if they covered half of his paper. I assumed those problems must have been very important. Doing that type of math looked so grown-up. It was a process that I wanted to be able to conquer. I couldn’t wait to get to that level of math.
Division is not so complicated as many think. It just needs to be taught correctly. Part of that comes with laying the proper groundwork.
Long before division class comes around, children should already be engaging in the concepts of dividing.
Those “official” concepts begin with kindergarten and continue level by level. But division has already been introduced to the child even before that “first” day of formal schooling begins.
For example, children see division at work around the supper table as they share the meal. A family of four shares four pieces of chicken equally. The pumpkin pie is divided into six or eight pieces. A gallon of milk is poured into glasses. Rolls are shared round the table. The last one may be divided in two parts to share between eager siblings.
So how can parents begin that formal groundwork for division?
Parents can add to what the child is observing day by day by simply adopting the usage of mathematical terms.
“Please share with your brother,” may be changed to “Please divide the roll between the two of you.”
Look for opportunities to use mathematical terms when appropriate.
“Divide these sandwiches so we have two (or four) pieces each.
There’s only four cookies left. Share them equally with your sister.
Divide the candy bar equally between yourself and your brother.
Divide the last of the milk between yourself and Dad.
Divide the potato tots so that each of you get the same amount.”
Children will be alert to the methods their siblings are using because they want to be sure they are getting their “fair share.” This unknowingly draws their attention to the division process.
Another way parents can lay the groundwork is to allow their children to measure.
Mother can let the children measure the ingredients for her favorite recipes. Dad can let the children measure items for his next building or repair project.
We tend to think of measuring as adding to something that we are making; however, we also measure because we are about to subtract from something. We are taking a cup of milk from the gallon. We are sawing a foot of lumber from six foot of lumber.
Measuring is an indirect way of preparing the child for future concepts concerning division.
This may seem odd, but division is really just a fast way to subtract the same number over and over.
A third way parents can lay the groundwork for division is to actually divide groups of items – not on paper, but with manipulatives.
I’ll discuss an easy and inexpensive way for parents to do this in my next blog post.
Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark