Saturday, January 23, 2016

Multiplication Strategies Part 2

I decided to continue the multiplication strategies post in separate posts so I can make each one it's own thought. I'll compile a master a list. If you haven't already read Part 1 on using the distributive property, you can read it here.

A quick reminder: I do NOT advocate rote memorization, what you will find here is not "tricks" to memorize facts. Rather, I believe in helping make learning abstract concepts relate to real world experiences. You will find here, tips and ideas that will help make learning come alive and retrievable.

2. Make Something. 

You read that right, make something, anything. This is a great tip if your student is a natural kinesthetic learner, if he is a creative type, and/or if she has body and spatial smarts. No matter which theory you use, making something will grab hold of more than one area of the students mind. He will be using his logic capacities as he solves problems, creativity as he designs his masterpiece, and if you set the environment up for it, he will also engage his emotional mind as he feels good about his work. Activating all of these neurologic centers immediately creates more mental connections from the abstract to the concrete.

But Miss Stefany, I'm not a creator, what can we make to help learn our math facts? Math is not art class!

I hear you, but I'm going to ignore that comment about math and art, they are very much related! ;)

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started creating with your math students.

Arrays are one of the first models students learn to connect with multiplication. So these first couple activities focus on the array model.

  • Punch holes in scrap paper with a hole punch. I cannot take credit for this idea, I recently found it on Pinterest, posted by The Primary Theme Park. I took this idea and ran with it with one of my autistic students this week. I have to say, this little guy does not have the fine motor skills to make his rows and columns look all neat and pretty, BUT, it made sense to him, it was easy for him to count and see the relation betweeen 8 x 3 and 3 x 8, and he laughed and had fun while he worked away.

  • Make Playdough models. I've done this for years, and a few years ago I had a little boy who wanted to take pictures of everything. He said pictures stay in his mind longer (he didn't have a real camera). I made this little paper cutout of a camera, and he held it up to his face and "snapped" a picture of the arrays or other figures we created. It was very important that he said "Click" when he snapped his mental picture. I'm still not sure if this was scientifically necessary, so you might want to encourage your students to follow through all the way as well ;) 
After either of these activities, I like to have students write out the facts they are working on onto a take home card. This is a large index card that goes home with them each week with their facts at the top and the arrays under them. The cards never come back to class, and I can only hope that my students share these cards with their family and continue to think about them throughout the week.
Another familiar multiplication model is equal groups. Students have been learning the basic of skip counting since first grade. These next few activities use the skip counting equal groups model.
  • Make a mini-book of facts. You might be familiar with lapbooks or interactive notebooks, homeschoolers and teachers love these because they work! My first use of these mini-books for math was a free resource available on Homeschoolshare. It's simple, easy to assemble, and versatile for many different learners. Being the creative type that I am, I eventually had to make a themed one for myself uh-hem, for my students ;). It's got a race car theme and was super fun for my second and third grade boys. The mini-books are great because kids actually want to revisit them, they'll play with them, and show them off to parents and siblings. When they are that excited about something, the energy has to be transferred to the skill they are developing, in this case, multiplication facts!
  • Make your own flashcards. They don't have to be fancy, or printed out using flashy graphics. Just write a fact at the top of an index card, have your student draw a picture of equal groups to show the skip counting, then write the answer on the back of the card. Yes, using flashcards to learn the facts is a form of rote memorization, however, the act of drawing out the picture provides a visual cue to a memory of the fact already stored, thus focusing on retrieval rather than repeated filing. 
This last set of activities has to do with bringing multiplication into the real world. Sometimes, all students need is a good reason to learn the facts. 
  • Build a model of dream house. Start with drawing out the plans on grid or graph paper.  This can lead to discussions about painting the walls (you'll need to figure out area for that!) and laying carpet (More area), and perhaps building a posch (Yup, you guessed it, more area). Then if your student is up for it, you can move into purchasing supplies and building the scale model, they will feel accomplished and have something to show for all of that hard work!

  • Feed an army. Not literally of course, unless you have one to feed. Take a trip to the grocery store, either in real life or through the pages of the weekly advertisements or online options. Shop for x number of guests, buy supplies to make x servings of each dish. While you're at, make it even more real life and calculate the cost of this meal! Maybe your little mathematician will get a philanthropic bone and be moved to give of his time at a local soup kitchen!

There is no magic fix for learning multiplication facts, but if you apply a few of these strategies your students will surely be on the road to mastery!


  1. Hi, Stefany! I'm Stephanie from The Primary Theme Park and I'm also in the TPT Homeschool group. I found the link through one of the posts there. It made my day to hear how using the hole punch activity helped one of your students! Thanks for sharing it here along with these other great ideas!

    1. Thanks for stopping by STephanie, and thanks for the great idea!


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