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Classroom Activities to Help Students Multiply

Janelle Cox

Mastering multiplication is not easy. It takes a lot of dedication and practice, which as teachers, we all know can be hard for our students. Not all students are able to learn their multiplication tables by rote memorization. It’s especially hard when they know they have to memorize the entire multiplication table.

Research actually shows that rote memorization doesn’t help students learn the rules of multiplication or any connections between numbers. Luckily, there are a few tips, tricks, and classroom activities that we can teach students to make it much easier for them to remember their multiplication facts. Here are a few ideas.

Classroom Activities Using Manipulatives

Using items like marbles, chips, and coins can help your students see that multiplication is an easier way for them to add more than one number to a group. To begin, ask students to use their manipulatives to show you 3 x 2. They will have created three groups with two of their manipulatives in each group. This is an easy way to show students that all they are doing is putting together three groups of two. Once they master this question, they will be able to master any question.

Multiplying by Zero

In order for students to really grasp the concept that when you multiple a number by zero the answer is zero, you will have to physically show them. Start by showing them a group of something. Then, take it away and say, “How much is zero groups?” They will begin to see that the answer is nothing, and the other number disappeared.

Doubling Facts

Once students know how to count by twos and are able to multiple by twos, then they will love the magic of multiplying by fours. Have students fold their paper in half lengthwise and write their twos tables on the lefthand column, and their fours tables on the righthand column. Then, ask them if they notice any pattern. They should be able to see that the answer is the answers are the doubles, doubled. For instance, 3x2=6, 3x4=12, 3x6=18, 3x8=24. As you can see, the answer in bold is doubled.

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Seeing Patterns

Give students a number grid. Have them look at the numbers to see if they can see the patterns. For example, have them look at 6x8 and 8x6=48 for the numbers that correspond with the facts. Have students practice fast adding, which all multiplication really is. Once they know all of their numbers and can add are able to count by threes, fours, fives, etc. then they will be able to multiply!

The Magic of Nine

This is by far the best multiplication trick out of them all. All students need for this trick is their hands. Have students place both of their hands out in front of them palms side down. Tell students that the fingers on their left hand represent the numbers 1-5 and the fingers on their right hand represent the numbers 6-10. To begin, ask students to hold down their ring finger (the number two finger on their left hand). Then remind them that 9x2=18. Have them look at their fingers and say to the left of your bent finger is one, and the right are eight remaining fingers. The magic about this trick is that when multiplying any number by 9, the left of the bent finger will be the tens place and the right will be the ones place. 

Simple Rules to Remember

Here is a quick chart that you can keep up in your classroom for students to refer to.

  • Zeros: Anything times 0 equals 0 (0 x 4 = 0).
  • Ones: Anything times 1 equals itself (5 x 1 = 5).
  • Twos: Any number times 2 is doubled, just add the number to itself (4 x 2 = 8) / (4 + 4 = 8).
  • Fours: Any number times 4 is doubled once and then doubled again (6 x 4 = 24) / (6 + 6 = 12 ... 12 + 12 = 24).
  • Fives: Remember to use what you know about skip counting by 5 when multiplying by 5 (2 x 5 = 10) (5, 10, 15, 20). The last number is always a 0 or a 5.
  • Nines: When multiplying by 9, remember to use your addition and subtraction. Subtract one from the number you are multiplying. Then, you must think about the number you need add to it to equal 9. (4 x 9 = 36) / (4 -1 = 3 ... 3 + 6 = 9). Or, use your hands, if you are multiplying 9 x 8, then place your hands out in front of you and hold your eighth finger down, then count seven starting from the left, and two, for the answer 72.
  • Tens: Simply add a zero to any number that you multiply by 10 (5 x 10 = 50).
  • Elevens: Think of 11 as two ones. Any number times 11 is that number times one and then that number times one again. Simply put, just repeat the digit for number up to 9. (6 x 11 = 66) / (6 x 1 = 6 ... 6 x 1 = 6).

Unfortunately, not all numbers fit into a pattern, or have a simple trick. These numbers will have to be memorized. The good news is that there are only about 10 of them, so all of the rest of the numbers will be quite easy for students to understand and remember using the tips and tricks from above.

Do you have any multiplication tips or tricks that you teach your students? Please share them with us in the comment section below, we would love to heat your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators