How to Teach Long Division to Fourth-Grade Students

By Jennifer Elrod

Fourth grade is the time when many students begin learning long division. Knowing what fourth grade students already know will help you find a launch point. To do long division, students must first know multiplication facts. They must also know how to do simple division problems. Guide them through a step-by-step process so they'll be successful.

Review the multiplication facts before beginning a lesson on long division. Knowing how many times a number goes into a bigger number is always easier if you have the multiplication facts in your head. Review facts 0–12 very quickly using flash cards. You can review with the class as a whole, or break students up into pairs and have them practice with each other. Fourth-grade students should already know the multiplication facts, but it never hurts to review.

Give the students two to three simple division problems to complete. A problem as simple as "32 divided by 8 equals what?" is fine. Since division is the opposite of multiplication, students need to get into division mode after practicing multiplication facts. This allows the information to enter into the brain in a logical sequence. Review is always important before beginning a new lesson. Fourth-grade students should know how to divide simple equations by the time you start a lesson on long division. If they don't, they will need help from you or a tutor to catch up.

Write a long-division problem on the board and ask students to copy the problem down. Start with a simple long division problem that does not have a remainder. Learning about remainders will come later. A problem example is: "Divide 320 by 8." In division we call the number being broken up into parts the "dividend." The number going into the larger number is called the "divisor." And the number in each group once the number has been divided up is called the "quotient." Label the parts of the division equation for your fourth-grade students to see. Use a different color for each label. This will help them differentiate the parts of the equation.

Ask students to look at the problem in a step-by-step fashion. In the equation "320 divided by 8," ask students if 8 can go into the number 3; when they say "no," ask students if number 8 can go into the number 32. The students should recognize the fact that 8 will go into 32 four times. Write the number 4 above the number 2 on the equation. Ask students to do the same. Tell them you put the number 4 over the 2 because 8 goes into 32, not just 3.

Ask students to multiply 4 times 8. Show students how to write the number 32 under the 32 in the long-division problem. Show students how to subtract 32 from 32 to get zero. Show students how to bring down the next number in the dividend. The number 0 needs to be brought down next to the 0 where you subtracted 32 from 32.

Ask students how many times the divisor will go into this new number. Number 8 will go into 00, zero times; therefore, the number 0 should be written next to the number 4 on top. Have students multiply 0 times 8 then write the answer down underneath the 00. Students subtract 0 from 00 to get zero. The answer, or quotient, to the division problem is 40.

Practice long-division problems over and over again before allowing your fourth graders to do a problem on their own. It will take time for them to get it. Using bookmarks to cover parts of the division problem may help them focus on certain numbers in the equation. Anything you can do to highlight certain parts of the problem as they solve the equation will help them. Fourth graders are also at just the right age to handle small whiteboards and markers. They can write problems on the board, then hold them up to show their answers. It keeps their interest while helping them learn.

About the Author

I'm an experienced teacher with a degree in Multidisciplinary Studies-Human Learning. I've worked with various grade levels at different educational facilities. My expertise includes: lesson planning, curriculum development, child development, educational practices and parent involvement.