Multiplication is one of the basic foundational skills in mathematics that must be mastered by students. In an effort to modernize our approach and help students take more ownership in the process, I attempted to take the process of learning multiplication facts beyond the basic skills and drills.
1. Teach the Properties of Multiplication
The properties of multiplication are a set of mathematical rules that students need to know in order to make decisions about problems in math. One way to help students better understand the concept of multiplication is by examining these 5 properties. Make a chart similar to the one above and review it with your students. Keep it in a handy place where it’s within an eye’s view of all of your students so they can use it as a reference when needed. Here is a FREE ClassFlow activity I created to help students learn and remember these multiplication properties.
2. Teaching Multiplication with Arrays
Having students put objects into arrays, like the “Array Cities” project to the left, helps them to strengthen their mathematical fluency and allows them to understand that multiplication is repeated addition. Students can use arrays to help them solve multiplication problems and to understand the commutative property of multiplication.
I always make sure and have the squares cut out ahead of time for the students because time would never permit them to cut out all of the squares on their own. This can be a little time consuming; however, with a large paper cutter in most schools it’s fairly easy to prepare for.
You can also have your students make an array book. Using a few sheets of paper, fold and staple the pages like a book. Write different multiplication problems at the top, even differentiating the problems for students. Then, have the students use rubber stamps and ink pads to make the arrays on each page.
As a third grade teacher, I had a brilliant idea when it came to teaching multiplication, or so I thought.
I was going to have my students memorize their multiplication facts in a unique and different way. First, I changed each child’s name tag to a multiplication problem. For example: A child named Ben, would now have a name of 6 x 7 = 42. My name was changed to Mrs. 12 x 12 = 144. For the first day, I gave each student a paper bracelet to wear with their new name.
The rules were simple. When a student raised their hand, they would say, “Mrs. 12 x 12 = 144, Can I please use the restroom?” I replied, “Yes, 6 x 7 = 42, you may.” I thought this idea was fantastic and the students were having a great time with it. On the second day, the students had to remove their bracelets and remember their name on their own. Some special area teachers would also participate, as I gave them a “new” class list to use. I was glad other teachers and staff in the building showed interest in our “memorization” and wanted to help us out.
By the second day, the new math names the students had taken different turn. One that was unexpected and I hadn’t even planned on, or prepared for, but boy did I run with it! Students started making connections with the other “names” in the classroom. Ben said, “Mrs. 12 x 12 = 144, I was the seventh born in my family and Emily was the eighth.” Not making the connection immediately myself, I said, “What do you mean, Ben?” He said well, my product is 42 and Emily’s product is 49. She is one of my siblings and was born after me.
Wow! This got the other students thinking and the activity took a turn from memorization to conceptualizing. Students started making connections with others in the class based on what factors and products were in their name. Not only did we continue calling each other by our “weekly” new names, we started putting ourselves in groups, and lines, and making connections with the concept of multiplication. Even towards the end of the year, students still remembered the connections they made and the “families” they formed.
How do you bring excitement and engagement into teaching multiplication?