Hands-On Best Way To Master Multiplication

Question: Awhile back I believe that you had an article on multiplication for those students who are not learning in traditional ways. You mentioned using three paper plates and five blocks to show 3 x 5 = 15 instead of rotely memorizing 3 x 5 = 15. I hope this helps, as I want to help my third-grader who just doesn’t get multiplication. — Parent

Answer: Whether students do or don’t get multiplication, the best way to acquaint them with the concept is through the use of pictures, drawings and hands-on material. This gives them an understanding of what multiplication looks like, and is not the time to drill children to memorize the facts. Later on, there is time to commit these facts to memory.

Here’s how the paper plate introduction to multiplication works. Have your children lay out three plates and place five blocks on each plate. Ask, “How many blocks did you use altogether?” Then have the children count the blocks. Repeat the activity using different combinations of plates and blocks.

Next, introduce the symbolism for multiplication: x, the “times sign.” Use the symbol in a sample multiplication sentence, such as 2 x 3. This time use blocks. The height of the blocks is 2, and the length is 3. The figure contains six blocks, so 2 x 3 = 6. Repeat this with other number combinations.

Now your children are ready to make multiplication cards, starting with 1 x 1 through 6 x 6 for younger children, and continuing to 9 x 9 for older ones. Do not include the answers (products) on either the front or back of the card, as the products should be determined by the learner.

Go back to the plates and blocks and have the children select a multiplication card at random. If it is 3 x 5, for example, they should follow the same steps as they did earlier. They should count all the blocks and then write the fact 3 x 5 = 15. Work through all of the flash cards in this way.

Once children begin to learn some of the multiplication facts, they should write down the problem with the answer if they know it. If not, they can use the plates and blocks to determine it. This is better than your telling them what the answer is, and is the first step in their learning multiplication facts.

Question: My young daughter (second-grader) doesn’t have attention deficit disorder, or if she does, it is rather mild. She really loves sports, but she doesn’t always keep her mind on the game when playing baseball or basketball. Plus, I am not sure how well she really knows the rules of these games. I think that she might do better playing some other sports. What do you think? — Sports Lover

Answer: Team sports aren’t for all kids. Your daughter might do better playing individual sports until she is a bit older. She would get more attention from coaches and might be more successful at such sports as swimming/diving, martial arts, tennis or gymnastics.

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