Think Multiplication for Division

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

Can you tell I spend a LOT of time in the summer reading about math and teaching?  I read new books, but I also cycle back through old favorites.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  I’ll read a couple chapters of one book, and the next day pick up another book and read a couple chapters out of that one.  Very random.

I read a great little section out of Van de Walle’s book today (the 3-5 version this time), and I found something I wanted to share.  Start with this quote:

“There is undoubtedly some value in limited practice of division facts.  However, mastery of multiplication facts and connections between multiplication and division are the key elements of division fact mastery.  Word problems continue to be a key vehicle to create this connection.”

Personally, I never solve a division problem using division.  If I am solving 56 ÷ 8, I always think of it as “what times 8 equals 56″ (BTW, I do the same for subtraction–it’s addition to me).  Van de Walle suggested a great little activity called How Close Can You Get? to help children practice what he calls “near facts.”  That is, divisions that don’t come out evenly.  As he points out, this type of situation is much more common in real-life than divisions that do come out evenly.  When presenting this activity, be sure to model the thinking process you go through to determine the solution.  For example, with a near fact like 38 ÷ 5, you’d cycle through the 5s facts, adjusting as you go: 5 times 6 (too low), 5 times 7 (close), 5 times 8 (too much).  So the solution would be 5 x 7 with 3 left over.  This would make a great class warm-up or workstation activity.  I made a little recording sheet patterned off the Van de Walle activity that you can use. There are a couple of versions with numbers filled in (one easier and one harder), and there is also a blank version that you can use to write in your own numbers.  Or the kiddos can make up problems for classmates to solve.  Click here to grab yours.



  1. sincerely, susie

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is great!

    • Donna Boucher

      You’re welcome! It’s kind of hard to go wrong with Van de Walle. 🙂

  2. Alison Hislop

    Hi Donna,

    I found your item through Classroom Freebies! I am a 3rd Grade Teacher in Australia and LOVE maths! I don’t know who Van de Walle is but it sounds like it is worth a read! I would love to be able to access the Maths Worksheet you have above, only it send me to google drive when I click on – any suggestions on what I should do next? I tried to check your TpT to see if it was on there and that link didn’t work either – I guess it isn’t my day!



    • Donna Boucher

      Hey Alison. Van de Walle was a professor here in the US. His college textbook was so wildly popular, that he published a commercial version. It really is my go-to book for math. Check it out here. Yes, I store all my files in Google docs. You should be able to click on File and then Download and grab a copy.

  3. T Bell

    Thank you. Fabulous, straight forward and easy to understand, as always. Your blog remains my homeschooling maths textbook. I’m from Australia too!


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