Long Division: Should it be Long Gone?

I have seen many students struggle with long division (especially the Standard Algorithm but also the Partial Quotients Algorithm). Similarly, I have seen many teachers lament this lack of proficiency. I suggest that it is prudent to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for learning these algorithms for division beyond 1-digit divisors.

If students understand the concept of division and perhaps can do long division with 1 divisor, what is the purpose of teaching long division with a multiple digit divisor (or the partial quotients algorithm).

For a long time square roots were computed using a lengthy algorithm, similar in nature to long division. We don’t teach that any more.

Sharp came out with a scientific calculator in 1978. It had a square root button. No more algorithm.

5 Replies to “Long Division: Should it be Long Gone?”

  1. This was the most disappointing article I think I’ve ever read. It lacked depth. It lacked any real supporting evidence. It lacked discussion of division in day to day life. I was really expecting more than essentially “my phone can do it.” Clearly this is not a reputable site to follow.

  2. I still use long division when I don’t feel like pulling out my calculator/phone. But that’s just me. I suppose we could take the argument all the way back to “why teach subtraction” or “why teach percents”, but I do get that some things can easily be done in your head once you understand the concept, long division and square roots not as much. I seriously disagree, though, with teaching algebra (beyond very basics) to everybody no matter what their interests.

    1. I distinguish between long division, especially with a multi-digit divisor, and learning division in general. The same applies to square root. Hence, I would not suggest that we don’t teach subtraction or percents in general. I think we are too focused on skills at the expense of concepts and applications.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: