Remainders: Division & The School Year

Looking ahead in planning for the remainder of the school year, I am currently finishing up my decimal unit and excited to end the year with Growth Patterns. I was planning on finishing decimals this week, however, I have one more thing that I feel is missing from the unit that I am curious to see how students are thinking around it. In the unit, within decimal division, the students are very comfortable estimating quotients and thinking about a variety of strategies in finding how many of the divisor are in the dividend. However, one thing that is not addressed is remainders, and how we notate them. I had not really thought much about it because in the context of the problems we were doing, the remainder made sense. However, during a division number talk, not within a context, the “r” was still there. It bothered me a bit. When I asked how they could write the quotient as a number, I got blank stares. I know fourth grade really spends a lot of time on interpreting remainders, but do we spend equal time on various notations of the quotient?

I have decided to extend my decimal unit just a bit longer because I feel this is something my students can definitely reason about and I am curious the connections they can make between whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. I decided to start with whole number divisors and dividends and move to decimals from there. Today, I gave them the problem 256 ÷ 20. They estimated somewhere just over ten and then I asked them to solve it. If they finished early, I asked them to write a context to match the problem.

The majority of the class’ work looked like these and contexts involved a sharing situation…

IMG_0590_2IMG_0594_2When pushed to write their quotient as a number without the “r,” most said this…(I do love the way this student divided:)

IMG_0585I did get a few 12.8 and 12 16/20, which interestingly fell more in money contexts…



All of these, I had anticipated, but then I got some really great unexpected answers that allowed students to think about the connections between notations…

12.5 r 6         12 16/256         12.75 r 1

I wrote these responses on the board and asked the students to see if any of the answers meant the same as 12.8 or 12 16/20 or 12 r 16, that we had established were the same. They did also mention, which I loved, that certain situations my use different notations.

I had some amazing proofs that we are kicking off the day with tomorrow before moving into decimal divisors. While I was hoping for students to look for equivalencies in the quotients themselves, most groups went back to trying out division in a different way to prove the answers. This group went back and solved the problem using the same method every time, just changing the breakdown of the quotient.

IMG_0591_2This group used multiplying up to see that 12.5 r 6 worked as a correct answer. IMG_0588_2

After asking them if they saw any relationship between the quotients, I got this…(much more what I was hoping to see in their reasoning)

IMG_0593_2This group had a nice, simple explanation at the bottom of this page…

IMG_0584This student is still sticking with 12 16/256 and quite honestly I don’t know how to approach this one. It is a different way of writing the remainder and I cannot decide if there is a time when this would be an appropriate notation?

IMG_0587_2The most perplexing quotient for most of the students was the 12.75 r 1 so I asked the student to write out his thought process because he was having trouble explaining it.

IMG_0581_2Now, while the entire class period seemed to focus on the remainder in a division problem, this explanation represents the remainder of the school year! I asked the above student to go in the hallway and record his thinking through the problem because he had such a beautiful way of starting to explain how he decided how much to add based on the distance from the dividend…but then I got this….heehee:

And here’s to the remainder of the school year….


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