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Why do children struggle so much with division sums?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Lara mfl 05, May 28, 2011.

  1. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    I'm not a maths specialist, but yes enormous numbers of children struggle with division-even some year 8s!
    Modelling is good but it's not the type of skill you can model once & children 'get it'. Lots of modelling, lots of reinforcement /practice & above all time is what I've found.
    Also personally I think for year 5 who are not natural mathmatecians a division calculation with an answer with an expected decimal answer is far too complicated. Simple ones with whole number answers to practice, then ones with simple remainders, but decimals?! Perhaps a mathsspecialist teacher might advise differently.
    I find if children don't 'get it' after a week, we leave it & revisit at a later date rather than them become too disheartened.
  2. dusty67

    dusty67 New commenter

    In my last school the head was a math specialist, and he had a real fixation with number operation not being taught individually. So a lesson on addition of 2 digit numbers had to include subtraction of two digit numbers. In the same way a lesson teaching multiplication as repeated addition had to include division as repeated subtraction.

    I was the Y2 teacher, responsible for introducing formal multiplication/division, (not just counting up and back in 2's or 3's)

    It was blooming hard work! But the understanding of division was securer than at any other school I've taught at.

    It also helps, if when introducing multiplication and division in Y2, children are confident in counting forward,back and on from a given number in 2's,5's and 10's. So a big focus on this is needed in FS and Y1.
  3. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I think he had a point
    Lots of children don't realise that division is the inverse of multiplication (subtraction is inverse of addition)
  4. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I would definitely say don't teach them alone if you can help it. If you are on placement then you may not have a choice though.

    One of the beauties of 'chunking' is that children don't actually do any division at all. They need a good knowledge of multiple tables (a lesson the day before and a mental starter to recap is a good idea) and need to be able to do column subtraction.
    The reason it is so hard is that there are so many things to think about at once. For children who are not very confident in any of them it can be overwhelming.

    I had top set year 5 last year (top half, so many average children as well). When I introduced division we spent a few lessons looking at multiple tables to make sure they were able to answer those quickly. A couple of lessons on column subtraction to recap and ensure they could do it quickly. Then, and only then, we moved on to simple chunking calculations. I modelled a several, just talking through what to do. Then I had children come to the front and do bits on the whiteboard. Then I did a bit of one and they did the next bit on whiteboards, I did that bit so they could check and change as needed, then they did the next little bit and so on bit by bit for lots of examples, gradually increasing what they did themselves. Then in the next lesson, those who wanted to carry on the bit by bit could do so with me and those who wanted to have a go alone could do so, still on whiteboards as they worry less then. Then the next lesson those who felt confident worked alone in their books, those less so worked on whiteboards and those still needing me sat in a group with me working together.

    This was the winter term and some never got on to working in books in the 3 weeks taken on this topic. In the summer term all did so eventually, but only the very top children had decimal answers, the next had remainders and the middle ability children just whole numbers.

    In year 6 all can use chunking accurately, but the level 4 children would still leave an answer as a remainder rather than a decimal in their own work. Though we did cover decimal and fraction answers in whole class teaching.
  5. I understand what you mean about division with remainders. I didn't make up the question. They have a mental maths book and do one sum test each week so I go through each question on the board, modelling how I would answer it, using the methods the school teaches the children. They then tick the ones they got right and tell me their score. I teach in the way I've been told to but have noticed time and time again that the children in both groups I have, struggle with division. The rest of the staff already know that though and it's in a long list of things the children need to work on.
  6. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Agree with all the comments about needing a secure knowledge of multiplication & chunking for children to do well. Remember that those arepart of a lesson on division.
    If you look through a book & decide a question is too hard, just leave that question out. The more children see themselves 'failing' the more underconfident they become. Success, success, success is what breeds confidence!

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