Teaching Multiplication

Child multiplying on blackboard

Learning how to teach multiplication to your child effectively is an important step in your child's mastery of mathematics. Multiplication is essential in understanding patterns in math and learning how to divide. Does teaching multiplication bring to mind the dreaded flash cards of your youth? While flash cards provide a useful drill technique for basic multiplication facts, interactive lessons instill a greater understanding of the basic math operation.

Teach Multiplication in Steps

Break down the process of teaching multiplication into steps. Following a plan systematically will help ensure that your child achieves success. It may take quite awhile to go through and make sure that each child understands each concept. It is sometimes tempting to rush and have kids start memorizing facts. However, be cautious about having your child memorize too soon. Remember that not only is it important that he knows 3 x 4 is 12 but also understands why that is the correct answer.

Groups and Arrays

The first step in teaching about multiplication is helping your child to see numbers in fixed arrays. An array problem is a problem where there are so many rows of items. For example, you could have two rows of three chairs each, or five rows of five puppies each. This is an easy way for kids to see that groups of numbers have a meaning as opposed to just "a bunch."

Use teddy bear counters or other manipulatives to help create arrays for your child and have him count out how many things are in each array.

Pattern Counting

The next step in how to teach kids multiplication is teaching them how to count by 2's, 5's and 10's. While you can teach them how to count by 3's, 4's or any other number, the goal is for your child to see the mathematical pattern in the most useful sets of patterns. One way to teach this is to have your child do jumping jacks or jump rope while he recites the numbers. Challenge your child to count as far as he can go.

Repeated Addition

Teaching kids that multiplication and repeated addition are the same is an important step for your child to learn how to multiply. 2 + 2 + 2 is the same 3 x 2 and both answers are six. If your child does not make the connection that counting by 2's (or whichever number) is the same as adding it repeatedly, make sure you point it out. This is the very essence of what multiplication is.

Math Facts

Once your child understands that multiplication is a ways of understanding groups of numbers, you can start having her memorize multiplication facts. The point to memorizing math facts is to help your child with automaticity. Automaticity is the ability to recall facts instantly in lieu of counting on fingers or diagramming the problem. While it may seem counterintuitive to memorize facts, automaticity is a very important fact in future success in math. Longer multiplication and division problems get very complicated when you have to use your fingers!

Teaching Activities

Games and activities help reinforce the multiplication concepts you are teaching your child. If your child is a hands-on learner, try using manipulatives. On the other hand, if you just want to make learning fun and reinforce concepts, try playing math games specifically designed to teach multiplication skills.


Manipulatives, also called "counters," come in many varieties. Educational supply stores sell commercial counters in a variety of styles. You can also purchase small toys such as bugs or animals that are similar in size to use as counters. Household items such as paper clips, toothpicks, beads or dry beans work just as well as the commercially produced counters and save on the budget.

The counters demonstrate how the two numbers function within a multiplication problem. Use the counters to work through the function. For example, the problem "three times eight" is represented by making three piles with eight counters in each pile. The child counts the objects and sees that the total number is 24. This visualization technique gives them a concrete reference when working on multiplication problems.

Counters also work to demonstrate the commutative property in multiplication, or the fact that the order of the numbers doesn't matter. To illustrate this point, have the child make eight groups of three counters. When he counts the objects, he'll find that the total is still 24.

Dice Game

Dice provide the numbers for multiplication in this simple game. On each turn, the player rolls the dice and multiplies the two numbers that appear. The answer is recorded on a score sheet. The players continue taking turns, adding the products as you go. The first person to reach a total score of 100 when the products are added together is declared the winner.

For beginning multiplication learners, keep a pad of paper handy. Circles and stars corresponding with the numbers rolled depict the multiplication problem, making the product easier to find. For example, if the child rolls a three and a five, she would draw three circles with five stars inside each one. Counting the stars reveals the answer of 15.

Card Game

A deck of playing cards serves as another game for teaching multiplication. Each card represents the numbers being multiplied for the purpose of the game. The face cards can represent 11, 12 and 13 if you wish to include those numbers in the game. Otherwise, remove them from the deck. Divide the stack of playing cards evenly between the two players. Both players flip over the top card at the same time. The first person to calculate the product of the two numbers displayed on the cards gets to keep both of them. The person with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.

Beach Ball Multiplication

With two or more people to play the game, a beach ball becomes a learning tool. Before the game begins, you need to divide it into lots of small sections using a black permanent marker. The exact number of sections doesn't matter. In each section, write a number. Game play begins with one person tossing the beach ball to another. The person who catches the ball multiplies the two numbers that are under her thumbs. She then tosses the ball to someone else or back to you if no other participants are available. The process is repeated, with the two numbers under your thumbs being multiplied.

Helpful Tips

Multiplication is a concept that is harder for some students than others. If your child struggles to understand how multiplication works or to memorize times tables, don't rush through the lessons. It is better to spend an extra six months building fundamental math knowledge, because without a strong foundation the higher math concepts will be nearly impossible to understand.

  • Print out a multiplication chart and show your child how memorizing 3 x 4 also means she knows what the answer to 4 x 3 is. Highlight the problems she already has memorized to encourage her with how much she's already learned.
  • Pick a multiplication fact that your child is having trouble memorizing and drill it all day long. If you are standing in line with your child at the grocery store, ask," What is 9 x 9?" Ask again and again until your child has it memorized and then move on to the next fact.
  • Make up songs or buy a CD with multiplication songs on it. This will help your child memorize facts.

Teaching multiplication using a variety of methods allows the kids to not only memorize the basic facts but understand the process as well. A mix of drill and interactive multiplication strategies provide the necessary tools for your kids.

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