Long Division


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“Long division,” grumped Susie to herself, “Is the WORST thing I’ve ever had to learn! Someone thought it up just to torture me!”

Resigned, she stared at her messy, erasure-covered homework. She knew she was going to have to start over. She couldn’t turn in a paper that looked like that. Each problem had been worked, reworked, and worked again. What a mess!

Susie felt so stupid.  She understood the process just fine. It was really pretty straightforward. “Maybe someday someone will invent a machine that can do these problems for me,” she thought.

As she listened to the plaintive voice pouring like rich cream out of the radio, she fell into a daydream. “Where the Boys Are,”  sang Connie Francis.  And Susie thought, “Yeah, that has to be way better than here.”

Okay, back to long division.  Look at this mess: 

Simple, right?  The examples always come out perfectly, no problem.

But for Susie, it almost never worked that way.  She would go over the problems again and again, and eventually she would see that her mistakes weren’t in the process; they were in the numbers themselves.  For instance, she would think “Five into nine,” and put a four above the nine. Of course, the whole thing fell apart from there.  Well, five FROM nine is four, right?  Right!

Now all she had to do was look at each step about a zillion times to make sure she was using the right process!  Great!  At this rate she’d have her homework done by the time she was about 90.

Fast forward.  Susie was a teacher.  Not math.  English, history, music, even some earth science thrown in for good measure.  And she worked with a lot of kids who had learning disabilites.  Dyslexia, executive function, ADD, dysgraphia—-and then one day she read about something called dyscalcula. 

Dyscalcula?    Huh.  Some people would see, for instance, an 83; then they’d write down 38.  Susie flashed back to the time she’d put the check number in the amount column and the amount where the check number should go.  She remembered how hard it had been for her to come out with a balanced cash register drawer when she worked at the grocery store.  She remembered long division.

How many times had she told her students, “You are NOT stupid!  Your brain just works a little differently, and our job is to figure out a way to  use that difference.”

Well, what do you know!  Dyscalcula!  She hadn’t been so stupid after all.  Her brain just worked a little differently.

What a relief.  And someone had indeed created a machine that did the math for her–as long as she punched the right numbers 🙂



One thought on “Long Division

  1. Pingback: Divide | My Kaleidoscope

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