Eat Your Remainders: Teaching Division to Kindergartners.

I’ve been hesitant to blog too much about homeschooling because I know most of you don’t homeschool and probably wouldn’t be interested in my droning on and on about it.  However, I’ve come to realize recently how much curiosity is out there about how homeschooling works and why someone would choose it.

So I’ve decided to do a weekly(ish) series on homeschooling for a while, describing our day, answering your questions, and sharing some game-like techniques that you can use with your kids whether or not you homeschool. 

Being that I was homeschooled for 12 years and I have been informally teaching Ali since she was 18 months old, I feel like I have a bit more information than my years of teaching may imply. I am also not offended or defensive about any questions you want to throw at me, nor do I think that homeschooling is the best option for everyone. I’ll be answering the questions that I’ve already been asked sporadically through the series, and if you have your own questions, please leave them in the comments on this or future posts.

Also: For those of you who do homeschool, I plan on doing a link-up or two.  Next Monday (10/8), I’ll be sharing what our homeschool day looks like (including curriculum, structure, and dealing with little brothers), and will give you the chance to link up your day as well.  So work on documenting it this week! 

Without further annoyingly loquacious ado, Today’s Post.

How to Teach Division By Eating Your Remainders

In true homage to her parent’s geekish tendencies, Ali is crazy about math.  One of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to go as fast as a kid desires to go in any particular subject.  So although our reading, handwriting, and many other subjects are progressing at a normal pace, math can go much quicker.  This keeps her interested, proud of her work, and excited to learn more.

In the first four weeks of Kindergarten, she learned carrying and borrowing in addition and subtraction (With the use of her beloved Place Value Houses), how to solve a multiplication table, and basic fractions.

Math First Four Weeks

(Yes, her ability to neatly write numbers needs a bit of improvement.  But I figure focusing on computing them has got to be more useful.)

But during all of that learning, she was insistent that she wanted to understand division.

I didn’t start out the year with a math curriculum (although I recently added Miquon to our day), so I was trying to teach her concepts on my own.  However, explaining doesn’t come naturally to me, so it took me a few days to come up with inspiration in how to teach it.  Finally I realized that I simply needed to use her love of Event Planning to convey the concept.  I pulled out the single digit blocks from our Cuisenaire Rods, and I wrote five boxes on a page.  I then told her a story.

“You are throwing a birthday party.  You’ve got twenty cupcakes, and five people attending.”

(I wrote names above the boxes as I talked.)

“Mommy…Ali…Noah…Gramamma…and Pop.  So you need to divide up your cupcakes evenly between your guests.  Can you do that?”

She set to work, and after she had them divided up and she told me how many she gave each person.  I then informed her that she had just figured the answer to twenty divided by five.

Hopeless nerd that she is, she was elated.

Dividing with Manipulatives

Thanks to this party planning fun, division quickly outranked multiplication tables as her favorite math game.


After a couple of days of verbal word problems and explaining the problem that she had solved, I switched to just writing the equation and letting her make up the story and fill in the answers.

I tried letting her divide them up without the visual clues of the circles for each person, but she wasn’t cognitively ready for that, so we went back to drawing the circles.

She also didn’t understand why you couldn’t just divide any number by any number like multiplication, so I told her, “Well, it’s complicated.”

…then I realized that I should just teach the kid remainders.


So I began drawing an extra, smaller shape, and explained that if she didn’t have an even number to divide between her guests, she could place the extras there.


During one of these lessons, Noah was standing at the pantry door screaming for gummies…which prompted a revelation: eating one’s remainders would make division even MORE fun.

So I gave her a pile of gummies, told her to work her problems with them,


And AFTER she wrote down her answer (so that the sugar didn’t impede her already messy writing,)


She could eat her remainders.

Eat The Remainders

(Yes, our homeschooling has the recurring theme of using high fructose corn syrup to encourage learning.)


(And yes, it makes for very happy students.)

Feel free to ask any questions about homeschooling.  I’ll answer anything, and If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you!