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How to Teach 3rd Grade Division: The Best Way to Build Division Skills

This week my third graders are learning to divide. Teaching division in 3rd grade can be tough, I'll tell you that! I recently noticed that my students are having a hard time interpreting certain phrases in division problems. Things like "rows of 3" were really tripping them up. While they all understand what "3 rows" looks like, they can't seem to make sense of "rows of 3".

I really want them to understand division word problems no matter how they're written because in fourth grade they'll be seeing a lot of them with even larger numbers. Not to mention all of the problem solving they'll have to do in real life. So I'm going to share some ideas on how to teach division to third grade students so they really get it (and I don't just mean the correct answer).

Introducing Division Concepts

A strong foundation in division starts with a conceptual understanding of multiplication. If students understand that multiplication represents combining equal groups to find the total number of objects, they can understand that division represents taking that total and breaking it apart into equal groups.

Today during our math workshop, I got out some math blocks (little unit cubes actually) and had the class build visual representations of some tricky phrases that they might encounter in both multiplication and division activities. Then I gave them a worksheet I made up so they could draw their model and write the corresponding multiplication and division equation. This was to help them understand fact families and how multiplication and division are related.