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long division
Posted:
Feb 22, 1995 4:37 PM


As a high school teacher who has taught a 5th grade math class for several years and a 6th grade class for one year  I'll throw in my 2centsworth on the division question. First of all  we are talking about 10yearolds and generalizations and theory are not part of their job discription. I think that kids ought to learn the long division algorithm  for several reasons. 1) it does translate to work with polynomials. 2)  and this has been overlooked in most discussions of this topic  it is one of the first algorithms that we give young kids that requires that they engage in an extended sequence of different operations. This ability to keep track of where they are, to organize, to concentrate  etc. are all very important study skills. This being said, the spectre of pages of long division problems clouds this picture, but it needn't. When I taught it, we did a day or so of practice and then, for the rest of the year we did one a day (almost every day)  never more than twodigit divisor, but it never was a big thing. ALSO  it is important to put division in the context of geometry so that kids can visualize what is going on. I give kids a rectangle  with the area and one side given  to find the other dimension, then extend to more complicated figures (circles  give the area, find the radius, etc)  always one a day  emphasizing area as a model of multiplication and the process of extracting a linear dimension from area as division. Joan Reinthaler Sidwell Friends School Washington, DC



