Tips for Teaching Children Division

Teaching division to children can be challenging simply because they may struggle to understand the concept. I remember struggling with multiplication at school for the same reason, nobody explained what it was that I was doing, just asking me to memorize times tables wasn’t much use as I didn’t see the connections between the numbers.

With that in mind, let’s look at an easy way of teaching the concept of basic division to children.

Use real items to give the children a visual aid. The task becomes so much simpler if they can see what it is they are doing with the numbers. Tell the child/children that these items need to be put into groups. The number of groups is the number that is being divided by. For example: 10/2. Take ten objects, such as crayons, building blocks, soft toys, and ask the child to split them into two groups. Take care to make sure the child knows they should be equal sized groups; I once did this task with a student and said to him “There are ten blocks here, we need to split them between you and me, how many do we each have?” to which he replied, “Well, I will have nine and you can have one”. At the beginning, try to avoid using complicated words like “Divider” or “Division”. You can write the sum on the whiteboard or paper that you are using, and use the above visual tasks to help them understand what the numbers represent as well as the symbol for “divided by”, but there’s no need to flood them with too many complicated words. When it is time to handle the concept of remainders, the visual method will be essential. If dividing 10 by 3, the child will naturally realise that it is not possible and there will be 1 extra item, with which you can explain the concept of remainders, or “extras” If they aren’t already familiar with them, fraction words such as half, quarters, thirds can be introduced here too. Make it fun! You can use division to hand-out candy, organize teams (if teaching multiple children) or any other grouping required in every-day life. You’ll be surprised how many things need to be grouped every day, four dishes between four people, eight cups between four people and so forth.

The key is to keep it fun and interesting for them and to check they understand the initial concept. If the concept is too much for them, or difficult to grasp, you could end up very frustrated and the child could have a bruised self-esteem. On the other hand, if they can visualize the concept thanks to the above methods, they will have little trouble with moving on to more complicated equations.