To belabor or not to belabor?

A 9 year-old said to me the other day “I’ve never seen anyone do long division except in school.  I’ve seen multiplication and subtraction and addition, but not long division.”

Indeed.  Why exactly are we still belaboring it?  And belaboring it is – it’s not just that we’re still teaching it.  We’re insisting on many many repetitions of it, insisting on the remembering of the procedure, insisting on the procedure itself.  I looked up belabor in the dictionary, to be sure I wasn’t overdoing it here.  All of the definitions I found match experiences I’ve seen kids having (and heard parents reporting) as a result of long division in school and at home.  Here’s a quick definition compilation:

to discuss repeatedly or at length; harp on

to attack with blows; hit, beat, or whip (!)

to explain or insist on excessively

to assail verbally

to explain, worry about, or work at repeatedly or more than is necessary

If you’re convinced that long division is necessary, or anything else you find yourself immersed in that might otherwise fit the description, then by all means, carry on.  I’m not anti-labor; it can be tremendously rewarding and useful.  But if any of these definitions fit your experience of long division or anything else, particularly more than is necessary and/or explain or insist on excessively,  I invite you to reconsider.  Why belabor it?  Is it worth what it’s costing you (and any other belabor-ees)?

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