Multiplication is one of the mathematical keystones for upper elementary students. Multiplication is involved in division, calculating area, fractions, word problems, etc. Students should develop automaticity with basic multiplication facts in order to help them tackle these other areas. Yet the method of rote memorization is difficult for many children, and in the past, there have been limited options for learning multiplication facts. So how can children effectively learn their times tables?
First of all, students need to understand the concept of multiplication in order to visualize it. Multiplication is repeated addition – we use multiplication as a shortcut for adding up a number of equally-sized groups. We can see how 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 is the same as 5 x 4 because five is added up four times. Visual aids are very useful for helping students understand the basics of multiplication. It can be as simple as drawing four circles with five dots in each one. In addition, an array (a rectangle made up of rows and columns of dots) is a great illustration of multiplication. Not only that, but arrays are also a precursor to calculating area.
In order for students to be prepared to learn multiplication, they should have a few other mathematical skills under their belts. For example, students who can skip count will have an easier time learning their multiplication facts, so use that to your advantage if your child is struggling with the concept. You can practice skip counting at home or even on the road (how many bicycle wheels can you count? How many pudding cups will I buy if I get five 6-packs?). Also, students who can double numbers easily will have an easier time learning their multiplication facts.
Once your child masters all of these skills, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty.
Stay tuned for our next blog about tips and tricks for helping your child learn multiplication facts.