How to Teach Multiplication the Right Way

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Learning how to teach multiplication can seem like a daunting task especially when you consider that your students are all at different levels. Throw in different learning styles and preferences as well as the need to meet all learners where they are and it easily becomes overwhelming.

As a teacher or home educator you already have way too much on your plate, so let’s talk about some simple ways you can teach multiplication to all of your learners that helps them find success and saves you time (and sanity) in the process.

While memorizing multiplication facts is a great place to start, students who only memorize their multiplication facts lack true knowledge of number sense. According to research, abstract concepts such as multiplication must be made more concrete in order for students to fully connect with the information.

So that means students need time to work with the numbers. But how is a busy teacher supposed teach all of the new skills and give students ample time to work with numbers?

Well, I am so glad you asked because that is exactly what we are goin gto do.

How to Teach Multiplication Lessons

Most new concepts are best taught in short, focused lessons. So the mini lesson format is ideal for teaching multiplication….especially in the beginning. Spend about 10 minutes teaching one new facet of multiplication before giving students ample time to practice the skill.

This practice of teaching a short lesson and then providing ample implementation time gives students time to digest the new abstract concept with a concrete application. While the mini lesson can be taught in a whole group or small group setting, the bulk of the attention should be focused on the actual practice.

That’s why math stations are one of my favorite tools for getting students actively engaged. You can prep the materials ahead of time so they are ready to be used when the time comes.

Stations should be incorporated into your math block and are perfect for transitional times such as when students are arriving in the mornings or as they are finishing up at the end of the day. Trust me…every little bit of time adds up!

And consider adding a music station into rotation where students can listen to multiplication songs. Here are some excellent options from YouTube…

So now that you know how to structure your multiplication lessons, you might be wondering, “How can I make multiplication more concrete?” Well, I’m glad you asked because that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss!

Here are the four most time efficient ways to effectively (and easily) teach multiplication and have your students construct and deconstruct numbers.

The 4 Ways to Teach Multiplication to your Students

Students need to be able to construct and deconstruct numbers in multiple ways. They need to understand the relationship between numbers in order to develop a number sense that goes beyond basic memorization.

1| Arrays

Arrays help to show multiplication facts through the use of objects arranged in rows and
columns. It’s a visual way for students to see how the numbers relate to one another.

Arrays help students unpack the abstract concept of commutative property and make it more accessible.

You can also make arrays edible using candies, cookies, or crackers and a paper towel or cookie sheet. Give students a handful of whatever snack item you have handy. Then ask students to create columns and rows.

The best part is that students can eat their delicious arrays at the end! If you don’t want to use edible treats because of sickness or allergy issues, consider using…

  • small erasers
  • pom poms
  • unifex cubes
  • rocks
  • marbles
  • pennies
  • paper clips
  • Legos
  • spider rings
  • bells
  • hearts
  • stickers

2| Factor Trees

I don’t know about you and maybe I’m dating myself, but I grew up doing factor trees when I
learned multiplication.

Being the highly visual learner I am, I found them to be extremely helpful…and to this day, I still rock my multiplication tables!

The good news is they still work for students now. Factor trees, also known as number bonds, are an effective way for students to to interact with the numbers by breaking the product into its two factors and thereby making the abstract concept of multiplication concrete.

1| Make full-size factor trees using three paper plates, one for each factor and one for the product. To make it easier to distinguish, use one color plate for both factors and a different color plate for the product. Then have students write the numbers on individual pieces of paper and place them on the correct plate!

2| Another engaging alternative would be to use different shapes of construction paper. For example, you could use two circles for each factor of the multiplication equation and a square to represent the product. Then have students write the numbers on paper and place in the correct shape.

3| Bar Models

A bar model is a visual representation using bars or boxes to show a mathematical equation such as multiplication.

Bar models appeal to visual learners as well as kinesthetic learners who like to manipulate and work with the concept being learned.

Learners can once again take apart the numbers to better understand the whole.

Some fun ideas for manipulatives are candy (always candy!), Unifix cubes, and Legos. Cut and
paste activities could easily be incorporated for students to work on as well. I have included a
Hershey multiplication picture book that shows the bar model in action.

4| Number Lines

Number lines are a great way to practice multiplication because students can visualize skip counting in the form of “jumps.”

It is once again a very visual way of learning that also appeals to kinesthetic learners through the use of movement.

If you want to get your learners fully engaged in the lesson, take them outside and draw a life-size number line on the concrete. Then let students actually jump with their bodies to make the connection between the factors being multiplied and the resulting product.

My Favorite Multiplication Resource

As with any skill, practice makes better!!! So I have created a multiplication resources that gives students the opportunity to work through each of the different processes. I wanted this resource to be super-engaging…especially for those students who don’t like math.

So I designed it with a Minecraft theme in order to immediately draw interest. This particular resource has word problems created to mimic a scenario learners might face within the video game. You can check it out here.

If you want one resource that incorporates all four of the ways to teach multiplication, be sure to check out my Minecraft Multiplication resource.

Your learners will get to practice their budding skills with arrays, factor trees (number bonds), number lines, & bar models within the context of word problems in a truly engaging way!!

Hopefully, your brain is buzzing with ideas to make teaching multiplication more fun! Remember, to take one new concept at a time and teach them independently. Then give your students ample time to practice their newly learned skills through games, stations, or centers.

Multiplication Tools, Books, & Games for Your Classroom

I’ve put together a list of tools, games, and books designed to give you an arsenal of resources from which to pull in order to help every learner find success with multiplication. All of the images below are direct links to Amazon where you can find out more about each individual product.