Jennifer has taught at both the elementary and university level. She holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.
What Does it Mean to Divide by 3?
Have you ever had two friends over to your house and you decided that you wanted to share a bag of candy evenly with them? In order to make sure that everyone gets the same number of pieces of candy, you have to take all of the candies and break them up into three groups. This is dividing by 3.
When you divide by 3, you take a number and break it up into three groups. Now, imagine that when you opened the bag of candy you wanted to share with your friends, it had 30 pieces of candy inside. In order to figure out how many pieces each person gets, you would have to solve the problem:
So, just how to do you do this? Let's find out.
One way to solve the problem is by making groups. When you make groups, you take the total number, and break it up into three groups. Let's practice making groups by solving the problem:
To do this, start by drawing three circles to represent the three groups you are making.
Next, you will add one candy to the first group, one candy to the second group, and one candy to the third group.
Keep adding one candy at a time to each of your three groups, one after the other and in the same order, until you have no more candies to add. Once you have added each of your candies to a group, count the number of candies in each group. The number of candies in each group is the answer to your division problem. So, since there are 10 candies in each group:
Another way that you can divide by 3 is to use repeated subtraction. To use repeated subtraction to solve the problem, you would turn the division problem into a subtraction problem. So, the math problem would become 30 - 3. Then, you solve the subtraction problem:
30 - 3 = 27
After you have solved the subtraction problem, you move the answer to the subtraction problem so that it becomes the first number in a new subtraction problem - where you subtract 3 again - like this:
Continue following this process until you reach a subtraction equation where you cannot take away 3 anymore.
Once you can't take away 3 anymore, count how many subtraction problems you did. The number of subtraction problems you did is the answer to your problem of:
Since you did 10 subtraction problems:
A third way that you can divide by 3, is to skip count by threes. Skip counting is counting from one number to another in increments of the same number, over and over, so if you are skip counting to divide by 3, you would count by threes until you reach the total number.
Let's try this with our problem of 30 / 3. To solve this problem with skip counting, we are going to count by threes until we reach our target of 30. Here we go…
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30
Once we hit our target, we count how many times we counted by three to get to our target number. We counted by three ten times, so:
Now that you know how to divide by 3, you will be able to share your bag of candy equally with your friends. Whether you make groups, use repeated subtraction, or skip count, you will be able to successfully divide by 3!
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