I looked at his work and realized that he did not see the way the digits were lined up. this meant he didn't realize he had to look at dividing the 12 into the 3. He got frustrated at this point because he knew some thing was wrong. I have noticed that many students, even those in high school, do the same thing. After some thought, I came up with a solution. It can be done on paper or on an ipad.

If a student uses paper, they can use graph paper to line up columns or they can draw dotted lines in as on the drawing on the right. The lines help students keep track of the digits. If its on an ipad, they can use an app such as gloss or take a screen shot of a problem and use an annotating program to draw in lines and do the work.

If anyone else has suggestions that would help students remember to use a zero as a place holders, please feel free to share. I find this is a big problem with the students who struggle in math. So please share.