What Is The Chunking Method?

Girl at desk happily studying and writing in her notebook.

It might sound like prepping a pineapple, but chunking, meaning dealing with a division problem by breaking it into pieces,  is really a simple maths method introduced in Year 3 or 4.

Chunking is the first long division method many children will learn, before moving on to the bus stop method in Year 5. Chunking division, sometimes known as repeated subtraction, is a method children can use when the numbers are too big to divide in their heads.

How Do You Use The Chunking Method?

In division, the number being divided is called the 'dividend', and the number we're dividing by is called the 'divisor'.

Explanation of the division terms.

The first step in division by chunking is to use known multiplication facts to subtract chunks of the dividend:

Chunking method example - step one.

In this example, we used a multiplication fact (8 x 12 = 96) to whittle down the size of the number we're dealing with. We could subtract the same again for the next step, but 80 is very easy to subtract from 282, so we've used that instead.

Chunking method example - step two.

We keep subtracting as many times as we need to, until we reach a number too small to subtract the divisor from:

Chunking method example - step three.

We're left with 2, which is too small to subtract another 8 from.

We then add together all the multipliers of 8 we have been using (written in green on the example) to get the answer. Any number left at the bottom of the subtraction column (in blue on the example) will form the remainder.

Chunking method example - step four.

Troubleshooting The Chunking Method

If your children tend to get stuck when using this method, the first thing to do is check their times tables knowledge. Multiplication and division are closely related, and if they don't know their multiplication facts, they won't be able to chunk with them.

Another quick way to help if kids are struggling is by using estimation to help them work out if their answer is likely to be right or if they're barking up the wrong tree.

Example of using estimation to help with the chunking method.


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