Sunday, March 25, 2012

Teaching Long Division with Base Ten Blocks

It's a hit!

My class has had a LOT of success with long division this year.  It's taken me a few years to get to this point.  I've tried involving them in the process of making posters reminding them of the steps involved in long division by using an acrostic poem as a mnemonic device.  I've tried giving them a multiplication chart so that they didn't get stuck too long if they didn't have their facts memorized (that way they could at least work on the process).  I created a game to help them visualize long division with remainders and I even tried switching a couple of the steps to involve more thoughtful use of factors.

Each new idea helped a little bit.  I would see a lot of success IN class; students would be able to divide with a few reminders, but then once I gave them homework on it, the notes from home would start rolling in.  The kids weren't retaining the steps long enough to be able to practice it at home.

Each year I would break down the process into simpler and simpler parts.  First I used numbers that were evenly divisable, with no subtracting and bringing down needed.

Then I'd use numbers that required subtraction for a remainder, but no bringing down.  I created worksheets that allowed children to practice one step at a time (with examples and reminders at each stage in the directions) started to see fewer and fewer notes come back about frustration from parents and the children!  These worksheets are available for purchase on my long division worksheets TPT page and I've received word from buyers that they are working for their students as well.

Then this past year my principal showed me how to use the "partial quotient" method.  At first I was skeptical.  I thought that if I showed them an alternative way to divide, that when it came time to do it "the real way," they'd get too confused.

Instead, they started to see what division REALLY IS.  A few years ago a student wanted to know WHY we divide, multiply, subtract, and bring down.  They wanted to know what all that has to do with actually breaking up a big number.  The partial quotient method, along with the use of manipulatives, helped them see how they are actually dividing up that big number into a specified number of groups.

Using the base ten blocks really helped the kids see what the algorithm was about.  I know for certain that this worked, because months later, when we started converting improper fractions to mixed numbers and vice versa, the kids remembered how to do long division with remainders without missing a beat!  Long division is no longer, as one of my fourth graders said years ago, "the biggest nightmare of fourth grade."

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