When I was a student in third grade I remember thinking I was great at long division. I always got stars on my papers and good test scores. Then I moved schools a couple of months into fourth grade and my teacher at my new school taught long division in a way that just didn’t make sense to me. She also required that we did our work her way. It was my new fourth grade teacher that had me convinced that I was horrible at math. From that moment on, I hated math.
Now, here I am as a third grade teacher, introducing long division for the first time. My school uses Everyday Mathematics which is pretty great (IMO). At least for these first lessons, it allows students to explore different ways to solve story problems and number sentences using long division. We discussed using the guess and check method, using a calculator, drawing pictures, solving it using the “Venezuelan long division way”, and FINALLY I brought up long division. I made sure to emphasize that all of these methods are okay at the right time and place.
Everyone seemed happy to explore these different ways of thinking. I think it especially helped that the “Venezuelan long division” and the “American long division” were very similar.
To support their learning I posted a couple of videos from the Khan Academy on our class blog and asked them to watch them and solve one additional long division problem where they had to show their thinking.
This is one of those days when I realize how much of an impact being a teacher can have on the lives of my students! Hopefully I don’t scare any kids for life and make them think they are horrible at math!