Misusing commutativity in division

When presented with a calculation where the amount to be divided (the dividend) is smaller than the number it is going to be divided by (the divisor), pupils may tend to switch the two numbers.

For example, when presented with the calculation 4 ÷ 8, pupils will often work out 8 ÷ 4, answering

8 ÷ 4 = 2 instead of 4 ÷ 8 = 0 rem. 4

The fact that division is not commutative and thus numbers in a written calculation cannot be switched, needs to be reinforced. Pupils must understand that when they begin with a number which is smaller than the amount they need to divide by, they will get an answer of zero with a remainder.

Where pupils aren’t secure in this understanding, similar digit switches are likely to occur when using a written method.