To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
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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