5 Life Lessons from Long Division

There are no calculators for life lessons or in fourth grade

I wish there was an easier way to do division. And I mean long division.

Like this: 61/256 = 4 r 21

If just the thought of doing those calculations in your head bring you the chills, then you can understand the angst of my house.

In fourth grade, the complicated process of long division is taught to children. Taking a small number and figuring out how many times it will go into the larger number, and then you get the answer. Or as Wikipedia explains it.

Either way, you explain it. It’s hard. When the numbers get bigger, the steps keep repeating and the answer becomes more difficult to decipher. Over and Over again.

Life is like that. Just when you think you know the answer to a simple question, you suddenly realize that it doesn’t apply here, or you guess incorrectly and have to redo the multiplication again.

Round up or Round down. Don’t ever think in Odd Numbers

When trying to solve 27/180 — It is easier (mentally) to round the number 27 up to a 30, because 30 is easily divided by 180. This strategy helps you to figure out which number to use by helping you find an easier number to work with.

When struggling with a difficult problem in life, think back to how you solved an issue like this in the past. You will often find the answer to what you have already accomplished in life. Or you can apply the principles you have learned to the new problem that you are facing.

Subtract Wisely

After the complicated process to begin division, it is easy to make a mistake in the subtraction section…even though it is technically easier.

In life, making hard decisions are done with a great deal of planning and calculations, but then you make a silly mistake like forgetting to put enough gasoline in your car or having enough money to pay for parking.

The harder you work, the less mistakes you make. The fewer mistakes you make, the better your chances of winning. Ara Parseghian

Be careful! Approach all areas of your life with planning and forethought. As your teacher taught you, make sure you go back and recheck the simple areas as much as you do the hard ones.

Keep Focused even though it is Hard

Long division and long work days are very similar. It is easy to lose focus in the middle of a hard day. So make sure you keep your focus, and keep working. Skip the temptation to take shortcuts that aren’t allowed in your work

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus. Alexander Graham Bell

Take Your Recess Break

While a fourth grader would never miss recess time, adults seem to forget that this option is there. Make sure you take some time to allow your mind to have a break occasionally.

Related: Read about a great date night in – Board Games that are still fun today!

Get a fresh cup of Coffee breaks, walking around the room, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or getting a snack are all great ways of letting your mind breathe and recharge.

Circle Your Correct Answer

Remember the wins! Make those important times in your life stand out for the positive. Focus on what you did right and keep a record of it! It may be easier to remember the failures, but remembering the positive times helps you to keep going during those hard times

According to a New York Times article titled “Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall”, it was said, that it is easier to remember bad times versus good ones because the “bad” make more of an impact on you. In fact, negative feedback hurt people twice as much as when given positive feedback. To overcome one negative action (from a leader or manager) or negative feedback at work, it requires 5 positive actions. It’s a 1:5 ratio of negative actions versus positive.

With the ratio being so off-balance, make sure you take time every day to focus on the positive in your life. Whether you write them down in a book or find a fun app to record them in, find a way to make sure you record them.


Passing fourth grade will be my daughter’s shining achievement this year; what will be yours?

Will you be bogged down by the long, complicated problems you are facing and focusing on the negatives? Or will you remember what you have succeeded in and keep going?

Let me know in the comments what lessons you have learned in math and life!

Previously published in The Ascent on March 30th

2 thoughts on “5 Life Lessons from Long Division”

  1. Hi Johanna,
    How true, life is like math there are so many subtractions that we have on a daily basis, and we just have to keep our focus.
    Love the concept, thank you for sharing!

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