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…

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

I 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.

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

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)

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

This 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?

The 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.

Now, 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 🙂 https://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/kewl-aid/31841872/

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

-Kristin