Solutions to 6 Common Reasons Kids Have Trouble with Division

Jul 10, 2016 | Location Littleton

Many kids have difficulty with division. Their difficulties often stem from one of these 6 reasons. Use this tool to see if any of these situations apply to your child. Then, get solutions to help your child become a division super star!

First, let's brush up on our math vocabulary. The dividend is the number that is being divided. The divisor is the number of groups going into the dividend and the quotient represents how many units are in each group.

dividend ÷ divisor = quotient


quotient ÷ divisor=dividend

The divisor and the quotient can be reversed and the equation remains true.  12÷2=6 and 12÷6=2. 12 can have two groups of six or six groups of two.

Reason #1 Kid Struggle with Division. Many kids don’t understand what division actually means. It means making equal groups. Taking 12 apples and making one group of 6 apples, one group of 1 apple, and one group of 5 apples is not dividing the apples. here's another way to think of it: the dividend is the whole and the divisor ia the parts. Some people call this “decomposing the dividend” into multiples. At Mathnasium we prefer calling it “wholes and parts”  We also talk about division being "How many of these are in that?" For example: 12 ÷  6 = means "How many 6's are in 12?"  Likewise, 4 ÷  1/2 = means "How many 1/2's are in 4?"

Solution:  Explain that, like multiplication, division must have equal groups. Then give the child lots of opportunities to work with actual objects and divide them into equal groups. Have the child write the division equation they just represented with objects.

Reason #2 Kids Have Trouble with Division. Children often forget the steps for long division. This happens when they don’t understand why it works. They are relying on memorizing a series of steps, the algorithm, that seem nonsensical to them.  Memory is a poor substitute for understanding because it cannot be relied upon as well.

Solutions: Encourage your child to create another method of solving division problems with multiple digits. The method they come up with might make more sense to them than the one they learn in school. If your child understands why long division works, they are more likely remember each step. Long and short division are simply different algorithms for solving a division problem. Long division is the more commonly taught method in schools in the U.S.

Consider bringing your child into our center, Mathnasium of Littleton. We specialize in making math make sense.

Take a look at ways division is taught around the world. Maybe the notation system of Brazil will make more sense to your child.

Have your child try short division instead of long division. It can be a great tool for solving division problems when long division makes it overly complex. Although it has been traditionally left out of the U.S school curriculum, it is a useful tool. If you are interested in learning more about how to do short division here are two resources. One is a video and the other is a written explanation to learn more about short division. Beware that a child should have a firm understanding of simple multiplication and division concepts before learning short or long division.

Reason #3 Kids Find Division Challenging. They have always struggled with math. This is just the latest concept that is giving them difficulties.

Solution: Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forward. A child who is missing a foundational skill will find division difficult because it is related to previous concepts. Division is repeated subtraction and the opposite of multiplication. It is related to counting, wholes and parts, and proportional thinking.

Read some of our previous articles about learning math including:

Call Suzie at 303-979-9077 to schedule an assessment and we’ll look at whether your child is missing skills from earlier grades.

Reason #4 Children Have a Hard Time with Division. They never developed multiplication fluency.  Children can use repeated subtraction and backward skip counting to solve a division problem, but it is a laborious process. Children using those methods will be prone to making mistakes. Since division is the inverse of multiplication a child with multiplication fluency will be able to do division quickly and accurately.

Solution: Enroll your child in our multiplication fluency program or our New! Multiplication Boot Camp.
Your child will become so good at multiplication division will get that much easier.

Reason #5 Kids Struggle with Division. They don’t understand remainders, the way they are written and what they mean. Remainders are a simplified method for expressing a quotient. They are used when the divisor is not divisible into the dividend using only whole numbers.  47÷3=15.66666…  or 47÷3=15 2/3. That works if you are dividing objects that can be infinitely broken down into smaller parts.  Some objects don’t break apart easily. If you have 47 balls that you are going to split 3 ways, you will end up with 3 groups of 15 and then have two balls left over, or remaining.  So 47 ÷3 = 15 remainder 2. Educators often tell children in 3rd-5th grade to use quotients with remainders rather than fractions or decimals. This tendency exacerbates children’s confusion about the meaning of a remainder.

Solution:  Use money, units of measurement, pizza, and other objects to explore the how different things are divided. Discuss situations where it does not make sense for the quotient to have a remainder, such as dividing cars, people, or balls. Also discuss situations where it makes sense for the quotient to use a fraction or a decimal, such as calculating a rate. If the division problem is not part of a real life situation or word problem, there is no way to know how the quotient should be expressed.

Reason #6 Kids Find Division Hard. Kids get confused with the symbols because division can be written in different formats.

Solution: Acknowledge the different ways of writing division can be confusing. Talk about how reading has some of the same challenges. Sounds (phonemes) can be made with different letter combinations (such as /x/, and /cks/, or /ew/ and /oo/). Assure your child that if they learned to read, they will soon learn the different ways of writing division. It takes practice.  Help them create a cheat sheet showing one simple division problem three ways.  

 12÷4 = 3               12/4= 3                    

If your child is experiencing difficulty with division for another reason, give us a call. We’d love to hear about it and see if we can help. We usually can. 303-979-9077 or click the button below for more information.

Learn More About How Mathnasium Can Help Your Child







This article was written by and owned by Cuttlefish Copywriting. It is copyright protected. Mathnasium of Littleton has permission to use it. Other Mathnasium locations should contact Heather at [email protected] before using it.


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