Help With Division: A Parent's Guide

Helping With Division and Long Division

On the surface, it seems like a simple request--to help your child with his division homework. If you’re shaky on the terms and symbols, it can be tough. That’s why you need a guide to help with division.

Writing and Reading Division Problems

There are a few different ways your child may see division represented. Typically, when students are first learning division, they will see this sign: ÷,  such as in the problem 25 ÷ 5 = 5.

  Some teachers and books will use this symbol:  /  to represent the same problem, 25/5 = 5.

Once your child begins long division, the sign he will see and use as a tool to complete the problem will be: )¯¯¯.  The divisor (the number by which you are dividing) is in front of the parenthesis, the dividend (the number to be divided) is underneath the line and the quotient (the answer to the problem) is written above the line.

Ways to Understand Division

Division isn’t always an easy concept to understand and kids usually need some real-world way to make sense of a new concept. There are three main ways you can help your child understand the concept of division.

1. Repeated Subtraction
A division problem can be thought of as subtracting over and over again. For instance, if your child is trying to solve the problem 24 ÷ 6, she would begin by subtracting 6 from 24.  She would then subtract 6 again and again until she gets to zero.


24 - 6 = 18
18 - 6 = 12
12 - 6 = 6
6  - 6 = 0


Once she reaches zero, she then counts how many times she subtracted 6. That’s how many groups of 6 there are in 24, which is what the division problem is asking her. So, using the subtraction problems above, 24 ÷ 6 = 4.

2. Sharing
This way of understanding division often asks a child to sketch out the problem to understand it.

You can look at the same problem as having 24 items to share amongst 6 people.

Your child would draw six circles, one for each person, and draw lines one at a time in each circle until she reaches 24. Then she counts how many lines are in each circle to get the answer.  24 items shared with 6 people equals 4 items per person.

3. Multiplication in Reverse
If your child knows his multiplication tables off the top of his head, then this strategy is bound to work best, especially with simple division problems.  Basically, it’s a matter of thinking backward. To use the same example, your child would look at 24 ÷ 6 and say to himself “What do I have to multiply 6 by to get 24?”  On paper he could write  6 x ___ = 24 and easily get the number 4.

Special Rules for Division

1. Dividing by Zero

  • 0 can be divided by any number and the answer will always be 0. Why? Because if you try to put zero items into any number of groups, there are never any items to share.  So, 0 ÷ 24 = 0
  • It is not possible to divide by 0. You can not split zero items into any number of groups, because there is nothing to share amongst them. So, 24 ÷ 0 = cannot be solved.

    2. Dividing by One

    • A number divided by 1 is always that same number. If you are putting 24 items into 1 group, all of those items go into that group. 24 ÷ 1 = 24
    • A number divided by itself will always equal one. That’s because you are putting a number of items into an equal number of groups. Each group will only receive one item.  24 ÷ 24 = 1

     3. Odds and Evens

    • Even numbers, those which end in 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8, can always be divided evenly by two.
    • Odd numbers, those which end in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 will always have a remainder of 1 when divided by two.

    Long Division Help

    1.  DMSBR
    When your child starts long division, it can be confusing to remember all the steps. You can remind her to think of the mnemonic device, Daddy, Mother, Sister, Brother, Rover or DMSBR.

    Each letter stands for a step in completing the division problem: divide, multiply, subtract, bring down and remainder.

    2. Forgiving Method of Long Division
    You may find that your child’s teacher uses a method of long division with which you are not familiar. Known as the forgiving method of long division, this method has the students look at the dividend as a whole and make educated guesses of how many times the divisor goes into it. It’s a little more complicated than the old way but gets the same results. The method is explained in detail here.

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