Partial Quotient Algorithm: An Alternative Method for Long Division

Image: Xanthoxyl via Wikimedia Commons

My youngest son is a whiz at math – as long as he can figure out problems in his head. But his uncanny ability to make sense of numbers is lost when he looks at a formulaic math problem. When he was learning long division he could frequently calculate the answer in his head, but given a written problem he’d melt into an uncomprehending heap of frustration.

While I don’t remember actually learning the process of long division, I’ve been doing it so long that it’s second nature to me. Nothing I did or said could help my son make sense of the process of long division though, so I began asking around. Miranda at Nurtured by Love came to my rescue when she suggested that I introduce my son to a method called partial quotient algorithm. While it may sound daunting, partial quotient algorithm (or partial quotient division) is a method for dividing numbers that’s much more accessible than the familiar but more abstract long division. It took me a few tries to make sense of this new method (old dog, new tricks and all) but my son was able to grasp it with very little trouble. Bingo! It just took coming at it from a different angle to make the written numbers make sense to him.

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