Domain:   Number and Operations in Base Ten   4.NBT.4-6

Cluster     Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.

Important Information
A crucial theme in multi-digit arithmetic is encouraging students to develop strategies that they understand, can explain, and can think about, rather than merely follow a sequence of directions that they don't understand.

It is important for students to have seen and used a variety of strategies and materials to broaden and deepen their understanding of place value before they are required to use standard algorithms. The goal is for them to understand all the steps in the algorithm, and they should be able to explain the meaning of each digit. For example, a 1 can represent one, ten, one hundred, and so on. For multi-digit addition and subtraction in Grade 4, the goal is also fluency, which means students must be able to carry out the calculations efficiently and accurately.

Start with a student’s understanding of a certain strategy, and then make intentional, clear-cut connections for the student to the standard algorithm. This allows the student to gain understanding of the algorithm rather than just memorize certain steps to follow.

Sometimes students benefit from 'being the teacher' to an imaginary student who is having difficulties applying standard algorithms in addition and subtraction situations. To promote understanding, use examples of student work that have been done incorrectly and ask students to provide feedback about the student work.

It is very important for some students to talk through their understanding of connections between different strategies and standard addition and subtractions algorithms. Give students many opportunities to talk with classmates about how they could explain standard algorithms. Think-Pair-Share is a good protocol for all students.

When asking students to gain understanding about multiplying larger numbers, provide frequent opportunities to engage in mental math exercises. When doing mental math, it is difficult to even attempt to use a strategy that one does not fully understand. Also, it is a natural tendency to use numbers that are 'friendly' (multiples of 10) when doing mental math, and this promotes its understanding.

As students developed an understanding of multiplying a whole number up to four digits by a one-digit whole number, and multiplying two two-digit numbers through various strategies, they should do the same when finding whole-number quotients and remainders. By relating division to multiplication and repeated subtraction, students can find partial quotients. An explanation of partial quotients can be viewed at, search for Outline of partial quotients. This strategy will help them understand the division algorithm.

Students will have a better understanding of multiplication or division when problems are presented in context.

Students should be able to illustrate and explain multiplication and division calculations by using equations, rectangular arrays and the properties of operations. These strategies were used in Grade 3 as students developed an understanding of multiplication.

To give students an opportunity to communicate their understandings of various strategies, organize them into small groups and ask each group to create a poster to explain a particular strategy and then present it to the class.

Vocabulary is important. Students should have an understanding of terms such as, sum, difference, fewer, more, less, ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, digit, whole numbers, product, factors and multiples.

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