When many of us think of division, we think back to the stress of trying to work out long and tedious equations as part of our maths homework. And if you found maths difficult in school, you may have jumped to the conclusion that it's something you're "just not very good at".
However, division needn't be complicated, and you are likely already using it daily without thinking twice about it. If you've ever split the bill at a restaurant or worked out how many slices of cake you need to cut, you will have used division. So while it may have been a while since you've had to put pen to paper and work out a long division problem, division is something that comes up on a regular basis. For this reason, knowing how to do it is an incredibly useful life skill — one that it's never too late to learn or get better at!
Learning division is a key part of the school syllabus, and most of us will have started picking it in maths lessons from a young age. However, if you're feeling a little rusty, there's nothing like a refresher to help you feel more confident about tackling a division problem. And even if you're more adept when it comes to division, there are plenty of tips and tricks to make it even easier.
So, let's get stuck in! In this article, we'll cover what division is, how it can help you in real life, and some tips to simplify division problems.
Division is the mathematical process of splitting a specific amount into equal parts — it's also the opposite function of multiplication.
It's often simplest to explain division in terms of the number of people in a group. For example, you have one group of 20 people, and you want to split it into four smaller groups equal in size. As division is an inverse of multiplication, you can use your multiplication tables to see which number you'd need to times by to make 20.
The multiplication formula for this is shown as the following:
4 x ? = 20
In this case, the answer is 4 x 5 = 20, so you would need four groups of five people. The division formula for this would be shown by the use of an obelus symbol (÷), as follows: 20 ÷ 5 = 4.
As with learning most things, starting with simple division calculations like the example problem above is useful. From here, you can move on to learn more complex mathematical functions, such as how to do long division.
There's the age-old question that nearly all students have asked at some point in their maths studies: "When am I going to need to know this?" While your daily life may not require you to have memorized the entire maths syllabus, knowing the basics is important — and that includes understanding division!
In the next section, we'll go through 8 real-world examples where knowing how to divide is useful and important.
There are plenty of scenarios you're likely to encounter in everyday life where it will be helpful to know division. In this section, we'll run through 8 examples.
1. Splitting the bill
As we mentioned earlier, knowing division helps with something as simple as splitting the bill at a restaurant. Say you've gone out for dinner with some friends and you're handed a single bill by the waitress. You'll then need to calculate how much each individual needs to pay by dividing the total cost of the meals by the number of people.
2. Budgeting your income
We all have to manage money at some point in our lives. One of the most common ways you're likely to do this is by working out your monthly income and splitting it up to cover the costs of your outgoings. But where does division come in?
If you're paid an annual salary, and you want to know how much money you have each month, you'd divide your salary by twelve — or by 52 if you wanted to work with a weekly budget.
Because your calculations involve money, you'll likely end up with values that have decimal places. For this reason, it's also useful to know how to divide decimals.
3. Adjusting a recipe
When you're following a recipe, it'll usually state the number of people it serves. But you may have a recipe that serves 8 people, and you need it to serve 12. You can use a few division methods to adjust the recipe accordingly. However, one of simplest ways to do it is to divide each ingredient by the number of servings. This will tell you how much of each ingredient you need for one serving. Then, all you need to do is times each result by the number of servings you need — in this example, that's 12 servings.
4. Calculating a test result
Working out test scores using division and multiplication is one of the more basic concepts of division, but it crops up a lot — think school exam seasons. Plus, learning to calculate percentages will help you with other scenarios, such as working out discounts on store items.
5. Meal preparation
Many people prepare meals for the week to make their life easier. Doing so can also save you time and money, so it's a win-win.
To effectively meal prep, you'd usually buy food in bulk, cook a big batch of a dish, and then split it into portions for each meal. This is where division comes in. To ensure each portion has the same amount of food, you'll need to divide the cooked batch of food into containers. Some people may just do this by eye, but if you're stricter with your portion sizes, you can do this by weight. Simply divide the total weight of the food by how many meals you need.
Also, when meal prepping, you'll potentially need to adjust a recipe to accommodate more servings. As we covered earlier, this also requires you to understand division and be able to work with simple mathematical concepts.
When you're traveling, especially on long-distance journeys, chances are you'll need to split up your trip into smaller distances so you can take breaks. The easiest way to do this is to decide how many stops you want to make and divide the distance by that number. This will give you an estimation of how far you'll travel to reach each pitstop.
When traveling, you'll also need to use division for budgeting your spending money. For example, you may want to allocate a daily budget. Alternatively, you could set aside different budgets for things like transport, shopping, and food.
7. Calculating vehicle fuel consumption
With the fuel cost increasing, you're likely aware of how much it costs to run your vehicle. One of the key aspects of this is fuel efficiency which is a measure of the number of miles a vehicle does per gallon of fuel put into the tank.
If you want to work this out, you'll need to use division. The following equation calculates how many miles per gallon (mpg) a vehicle does:
miles driven ÷ gallons of fuel used
If you prefer, you can also calculate your vehicle's fuel efficiency with kilometers and liters. Just use the following equation instead:
kilometers driven ÷ liters of fuel used
8. Exercising and training
Following a workout routine and partaking in exercise means using basic maths, likely more than you'd realize. For example, working out how many calories you have burned, keeping track of reps in an exercise set, and following a specific diet all require you to use maths in some capacity.
One key aspect of exercise and training where you'd need to use division is to calculate your macros. Doing so helps you identify the proportions of specific foods you should be consuming to help you reach your fitness goals.
You can calculate your macros by following these steps:
- Work out how many calories you eat per day.
- Determine your preferred ratio of carbs, fat, and protein, e.g. 50/30/20 macro split.
- Multiply your daily calorie amount by each ratio (use percentages). E.g. 2,300 calories multiplied by 20% protein = 460
- Divide each of your calorie amounts by their calorie-per-gram value. E.g. for a protein that is 4 calories per gram, you'd divide 460 by 4. So, you'd need to eat 115 grams of protein per day.
Division doesn't come naturally to everyone, but thankfully there are rules and tricks to make learning and teaching division easier. In fact, there are 10 rules that will make learning how to divide quicker and easier. So, what are they?
The 10 rules of divisibility
Knowing these rules of divisibility makes dividing large numbers so much easier:
- If you divide any number by 1, the answer will be the same as the dividend.
- If the last digit of a number is even, it is divisible by 2.
- If the sum of a number's digits is divisible by 3, the number itself is divisible by 3.
- If you can divide the last two digits of a number by 4, the number is divisible by 4.
- If a number ends in a 0 or a 5, it is divisible by 5.
- If a number is divisible by both 2 and 3, it is also divisible by 6.
- If, when you double the last digit of a number and then subtract it from the number, you are left with 0 or a number divisible by 7, the number is divisible by 7.
- If the last three digits of a number are divisible by 8, the number itself is divisible by 8.
- If the sum of a number's digits is divisible by 9, the number itself is divisible by 9.
- If the last digit of a number is 0, the number is divisible by 10.