How to Teach Division

Lori Soard
Girl with abacus

Once your child has mastered the multiplication tables, it is time to teach division. This math concept can be difficult for some students to grasp. However, there are some tips and tricks for teaching division that parents will find helpful.

Basic Division

Start teaching division by focusing on the basic concepts of dividing. If the student has a firm grasp of multiplication, teaching division will be easier since it is simply the reverse of multiplying.

  1. Start by showing the student how to work multiplication backwards. For example, the parent might say, "If two times two equals four, then four divided by two equals what? Some students will pick up this concept quickly. If your child struggles, he may be a visual or hands-on learner. Try using manipulatives or an abacus to show the concept to the child.
  2. Once the student understands the concept of dividing numbers into groups, move on to concepts such as uneven numbers. Explain that if you have five cupcakes and two boxes, and you want to put the same number of cupcakes in each box, there will be one cupcake left over.

Once you've taught division, you'll want to spend time on drills so your child learns to divide quickly and efficiently. 

Long Division

After your child understands basic division, the next step is to teach your child long division. Learning long division is a challenge for some students. It is important to take the task step-by-step until the entire problem is solved.

  1. Explain that the student will first divide the number on the outside (divisor) into the number closest to the left bracket of the division symbol (dividend).
  2. To figure out how many times a number goes into another number, the student must follow the pattern of: Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Carry Down (DMSC).
  3. This step is repeated until all numbers are divided into and the student reaches zero or a number that is smaller than the divisor (remainder).
  4. The answer is called a quotient.

If the student is still having trouble grasping long division, you can break the steps down a bit more, really focusing on the process of DMSC. For example, have your child solve 800 divided by 10:

  • 10 is the divisor. 800 is the dividend. First, look for the smallest number in the dividend, starting on the left, that can be divided by 10. Since 8 is smaller than the number 10, the number to divide into is 80.
  • Figure out how many times 10 goes into the number 80. The easiest way to figure this out is using multiplication. 10 times what equals 80? 10 times 8 equals 80, so 8 is the first number in the quotient.
  • Write the answer to 10 times 8 under 80 and subtract. The number carried down will be 0.
  • 10 does not go into 0, so the number 0 is added to the end of the quotient. The answer is 80.

It is important to teach your student to line up numbers carefully, especially during long division. A number placed slightly to the right can cause the student to carry the wrong numbers down or subtract incorrectly and result in a wrong answer.

Teaching Division for Everyday Living

One of the best parts of homeschooling is taking a concept like division and showing your child how it can be used in her everyday life. The kitchen is an excellent place to teach division. If your child enjoys cooking, then this can be a fun way to reinforce concepts. For example, have your daughter help you make cookies. Instead of mixing up the entire recipe, ask her to divide everything in half, because you're only making half the cookies. Once the cookies are completed, have her divide them between everyone in the family. This type of hands-on learning will help solidify math concepts. You can also find opportunities to use division while shopping, gardening and even ordering pizzas.

How to Teach Division