Please welcome Kara to Minds in Bloom today! She’s written a post all about introducing multiplication concepts, where she recommends helpful approaches and resources.

I landed a job teaching third grade right out of college. It seems like I spent the entire year reviewing multiplication facts. We drilled, drilled, and drilled some more. Although it looked like the majority of my students learned their multiplication facts, it was hard to gauge if they actually understood the concept of multiplication. After my first year, I changed schools and began teaching fifth grade. Once again, it seemed like I spent the entire year focusing on our multiplication facts. Once AGAIN, we drilled, drilled, and DRILLED some more.

Now that I am teaching second grade, I have really started thinking about how to teach the concept of multiplication. I don’t start multiplication until later in the school year. However, we address the concept throughout the year.

I have found that discussing real life situations with the kids is the best way to introduce multiplication as a concept. For example, “Sally Sue Pants bought four ice cream cones. Each ice cream cone has three scoops of ice cream on it. How many scoops are there in all?” The first thing we do is to actually draw the picture–we draw four ice cream cones and then add three scoops of ice cream to each cone.

After that, I show them that it is actually a multiplication problem and show them how to write the problem. We repeat this several times. I like to divide a paper into fourths so that we can have eight practice problems (four problems on each side).

After we understand the concept of multiplication, we move onto work that still requires students to draw the problems. Although some may be ready to move on to learning actual multiplication facts at this point, we save those for later. Once we seem to have mastered that, I show them how the problem can be represented as a multiplication problem. The students love being able to write multiplication problems. After adding and subtracting in kindergarten and first grade, it’s exciting for them to be able to write a whole new kind of problem.

Even though we are writing multiplication problems, I really like to be systematic about which problems we start with. I prefer to start with only multiplying by 2’s. Since multiplying by 2’s is a review of adding our doubles, it’s the perfect place to start.

We focus intently on multiplying by 2’s for an entire week. I really like to make sure they have mastered their 2’s before moving on. The eventual target is to have the students solving word problems that require them to apply their multiplication facts. My students seem to solve word problems better when they are allowed to use colored pencils. I have always used colored pencils while working on the Elmo projector. My students asked me if they could use them, too, and it has worked really well. They love adding some color to their work.

When solving word problems, we always read through the problem first. Next, we underline the question (this is where the colored pencils come in). We then go back and circle any number that we need. Lastly, we solve the problem.

Don’t get me wrong – we still practice our multiplication facts. However, we do not do that until they fully understand the concept. When we start practicing the facts, I only start with 0’s and 1’s. We practice these each morning with our warmup papers for a week. After a week, we test over them (our test day is always Wednesday). If they do well on those, they get a small sticker that they can put on their desk name tag. I strongly suggest starting with the facts that they can easily master. This is the order that I use in my classroom – 0’s, 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 3’s, and then 4’s. Learning all of these will really help them going into the third grade.

My favorite site for multiplication fact practice pages is Math Drills. I really like this site because it allows you to focus on multiplying by a single number at a time. For example, after we have learned our 0’s and 1’s, we move on to the 2’s. I can easily print pages that contain only x2 problems. I like to print 100 problems a page, but I cut the pages into strips so that they are only practicing 20 or 30 at a time. (This is also great for saving paper).

Feel free to download my Beginning Multiplication FREEBIE to help you get started!

I am thrilled to be a guest blogger! My name is Kara Hoelscher, and I am a second grade teacher in a small farming and ranching community in central Texas. I have been teaching for 14 years and have been in the second grade for nine of those years. The second grade has truly captured my heart! You can visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store or visit my blog for more ideas.

Michela G says

Hi, I’m a first year teacher and I am starting our multiplication unit. I teach 3rd grade but my students have not been introduced to multiplication before. When I was learning multiplication, I remember doing similar drills/tests. Mine were always timed. Do you time your students on the tests?

Thank you!

Cassi Noack says

Hi 🙂 I absolutely used timed facts drills with my students, but I was VERY intentional about how I used them. The practice session was timed and students only raced against themselves to beat their personal results from the day before. Make sure you separate automaticity from understanding. It’s very important that students learn the meaning of multiplication outside of just memorizing the answers. In my opinion, both are necessary. Mathematically, it’s imperative that they understand the concepts, but for stamina purposes in later math skills, it’s important that they know each product without mental expenditure.