Zero in written division

When using the short division written method, pupils may display a lack of confidence in dividing zero by a number, or may not understand the importance of zero as a place holder.

In this calculation, the pupil has recognised that 0 ÷ 3 = 0, but hasn’t seen the importance of writing the zero in the answer. If encouraged to look at the final answer, they should notice that 3 x 31 would be much smaller than 903 and this is due to the missing placeholder.

Similarly, when zero is in the middle of a number, pupils can become confused about where to write a previous remainder. Here, the pupil has ignored the zero and has instead written the remainder of 2 into the answer line. They may then attempt to complete the calculation by working out the final 4 ÷ 3.

In this example, the pupil has bypassed the zero, writing the remainder before the next digit instead. The answer has then been centred above both digits.

Encouraging pupils to align the answer digit above the number that is divided, means mistakes such as these will result in a clear gap being left in the answer. Pupils will be able to see this as an obvious sign that something has gone wrong.

Some children may have learnt that final zeroes on decimal numbers are unnecessary (2.50 can be written as 2.5) and may misapply this knowledge to whole numbers. Pupils must recognise the importance of recording this zero in their working out, as well as when copying the answer into an answer box.

Download worksheets (with answer sheets) to practise zero in short division