Monday, February 22, 2021

How to Teach Division to Your 3rd Graders

Does anyone else remember division being SO CONFUSING as a child?!

My teacher always used to ask questions like "How many times does 8 go into 48?".

I often found myself thinking, like what does that even mean?!

When I became a teacher, I "relearned" math from how I was taught so that I could better teach my students. I didn't want for my students to ever be confused and wonder "what the heck?!" like I often did as a child.

Every teacher knows that the teaching of division is no joke. But the great news is that it doesn’t have to be difficult. By using consistent language and making learning relevant, your students can learn division like that (audible snap).

I always begin my division instruction by asking students if they’ve had experiences where they’ve had to share something with a sibling, cousin, friend, etc. Inevitably, their answer is yes.

I then proceed to ask them if their parents would allow them to give their friend only 2 cookies but give themselves 5.


This usually gets an astounding "NO", when I ask why, they tell me "because it's not fair!". We talk about the concept of fairness and I have the kids explain it to me. I then take that explanation and tell them that since they understand the concept of sharing and fairness (sharing equally), they already understand the concept of division!

I then jump into a read-aloud with the wonderful children’s book The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins.

This classic book tells a story that perfectly pairs with the concept of division, and the kids love it! While Sam and Victoria are waiting to devour hot, chewy chocolate chip cookies, some friends stop by. As the doorbell keeps ringing from more and more visitors, their hopes of eating lots of the cookies continue to dwindle.

Once we’ve finished reading and discussing the book, I hand out paper cookies to the students. We use these cookies to illustrate division problems from the book. Math concepts are so much easier when manipulatives are involved.

Since I know that many of you are currently using a distance learning model, I have also created a digital resource to go along with this book and lesson idea. Simply have your students complete the same activity by physically manipulating and moving the cookies to represent the division problems.

Emphasizing the connection between multiplication and division is so necessary to get kids to become proficient with this skill. Anytime students are required to figure out the quotient, I always ask them 8 times what equals 40? This gets students always thinking about division in this way so that they can quickly and easily figure out the answer. 

Continue to provide guided practice to students as they are just learning this concept by using the I do, We do, You do model. The goal of doing this is so that you know students are ready to go off on their own to practice independently. You DO NOT want students to practice the concept the wrong way and get that way stuck in their heads.

As you are practicing, ask your kids questions and begin to release the responsibility of modeling off to your students.

As you are ready to connect to division word problems, it's essential to practice alongside other word problems (at least multiplication, too) so that students are forced to think about the context of the problem and not just assume every answer will be division.

I love having task cards on hand to be able to provide my students with a variety of word problems at any moment. These multiplication and division task cards are perfect for providing your student guided practice and then following up as center rotation or independent work.

If you're interested in more ideas on how to use task cards in the classroom, check out this post

Literature is a great add-on to math instruction, and manipulatives always help make the learning stick. Whether 3-D manipulatives or online, young math students benefit greatly by using them. I hope that these tips for teaching division help both you and your students.

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