Works for Me Wednesday: Counting Chips for Division

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Can I just be honest and blunt with you?  Division is kicking our butts over here.  Josh, who has always been my math whiz, rarely making even careless mistakes, is really having a hard time with division.  It just hasn’t clicked with him yet.  He can’t seem to wrap his mind around the fact that it’s the opposite of multiplication.

counting chips

I can’t really say that I blame him.  I hated math when I was in school — particularly division.  So, I’ve been at a loss as to how to help it make sense to the kid to whom I usually don’t have to explain math.  Finally, this week, I realized that we needed something visual.  So, I pulled out the counting chips that I’m not sure I ever actually used with him.  I’m really surprised that I still had them tucked away in our school cabinet, but I guess they were too bright and shiny for this homeschool mom to get rid of.

First, we counted out the number being divided.  Then, we started our groups, one chip in each group until they were all gone.  For example, for 48 divided by 6, we first counted out 48 chips, then, we made six groups of one.  We added one chip at a time to each group until all the chips were distributed, then Josh counted to see how many chips were in each group.

I saw the lights start to flicker.  After working a few problems like that, he was able to work most of the rest of them on his own, only pulling out the chips when he came across one that really confused him (aggravating 9’s!).  I have a feeling it may take a few more practices with the chips, but I could see that this visual, hands-on activity way of working the problems really made it start to make a lot more sense.

So, if you’ve got some math manipulatives sitting around that you thought were just for you young elementary students, don’t be afraid to pull them out with your older kids.  Sometimes we all just need to see something before we can really understand how it works.

Visit Kristin at We Are THAT Family for more Works for Me Wednesday tips.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Really great idea! I'll have to remember this when we get to division. Man, oh man, I am not looking forward to that at all.

  2. It's not even neccessary to buy math manipulatives for this. I taught division a couple of weeks ago to my daughter using pennies. Using everyday objects is a simple way to do problems without spending money on manipulatives. You can use blocks, pencils, crayons, coins, etc., depending on what you have.

  3. I bet that did help! I'm a visual learner. I'm forever frustrating my Hubby by asking him to "draw me a picture" of what he means 🙂

  4. I've got to laugh. We have the opposite problem at our house. My oldest daughter can do long division all day long and never make a mistake. Give her multiplication? 9 out of 10 will be wrong! Go figure.

  5. Yes sometimes if we can just 'see' it then it clicks…good for you! First time here, I must say the name of your blog made me laugh! Kim

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