Memorizing Multiplication

I have an elementary aged daughter, 3 formerly elementary aged children, and tutor several others. In my many years of sitting with kids and their math homework, one of the biggest hurdles I have seen most students struggle to conquer is committing multiplication facts to memory. I am of the firm belief that young people should first memorize addition facts, but schools vary on their insistence that students master this, so the ‘count on the fingers’ method remains securely in place in this case. But those bothersome multiplication tables persist in tormenting young students today as much as they did generations before. One of the problems math teachers face is the vast difference between students’ abilities and speed at memorizing and the limited class time they can spend on this often time consuming task. So it often must fall to parents to ensure their children don’t miss this math milestone. Over the years I have tried, with varying success, many different methods for getting those facts down. Since learning multiplication tables is not math, which is fun, but rote memorization, which is not, making the chore enjoyable is mandatory. Here are a few we think made the grade.

1) Timed worksheet drills, while not exciting, work well. This website allows you to make and print sheets that include only the facts your child needs to work on. I recommend students take on one number at a time. They should be able to do each set of tables, i.e. 2s, 3s etc., quickly and without mistakes before moving to mixed sheets.
Multiplication Worksheets

2) Good, old fashioned, math multiplication war feels like a game so there tend to be fewer fights about studying using this method and it seems to work at getting the facts down. We like fish so this is our favorite.

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3) Trampoline jumping while citing facts in order has always been popular in my house. Kids get one jump each while calling out products such as your 7s (7, 14, 21, 28, 35 …). This is a fun method that kids don’t mind doing and has the added bonus of providing exercise, but some end up knowing the answers without remembering which number they multiplied the 7 by to get to it. Another limitation of this technique is the need for a trampoline, unless you are willing to let them break the century old rule prohibiting jumping on the bed.

4) I’m not a fan of adding more screen time into the schedules of our already digitally saturated kids, but sometimes you just need them to practice those times tables alone while you make dinner. In those cases, we like Math Magician. Again, students can practice individual or mixed tables. As an added incentive, they allow kids to print out their results. My daughter liked to print out the 100% certificates and tape them to her wall.
Online Multiplication Practice

5) Dice games are always a big hit. In simple versions, two players each role a die and the student calls out the answer. A bit more complicated dice game, damult dice, involves each player taking turns rolling three dice. The first to break 200 (or 500, etc.) wins. Each turn, players choose two dice to add together, then multiply the sum by the remaining die. The result is the score for that turn.

6) Our favorite multiplication tool is a collection of plastic handheld sticks, or learning Wrap-Ups, that students wrap attached string around to connect factors and products. This video shows how to use them.

For the do-it-yourselfers, homemade wrap-ups are not difficult to make.

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We hope you find at least one of these approaches takes away a bit of the pain and speeds up this less than desirable rite of passage of childhood. Happy multiplying!

-By Sonja-