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Q&A #2995

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Multiplying and Dividing 2- and 3-digit numbers

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From: Loyd <loydlin@aol.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003122714:19:53
Subject: Using division to help students understand large numbers

Students often can solve simple division problems such as:

If a dentist works 10 hours, how many patients can he work on if he
spends 1 hour working on each patient.  Most students will see this
right away.  But take the case where someone like the mythical Santa
Claus who has to visit 50 million homes in 10 hours.  How many minutes
or seconds will he/she have for visiting each home?

I asked something like that one time and students have no idea how to
solve it.  I told them to set up a problem using reasonable numbers
and then solve the simple problem.  The student then uses the
identical procedure to solve the problem with very large numbers.  

That is the way I learned to solve these problems in my early
days-using small numbers to find the procedure. 

Another type of practical problem is a hamburger problem:

Suppose it costs 60 cents to make a hamburger and you want to make
$20,000 per year.  How many would you have to sell in 300 days if you
wish to sell them for 75 cents?  Students can solve division and
multiplication problems but have difficulty in seeing a practical use.
A few take home problems like that might help.  Have student show
their work.

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