The Harvard Graduate School of Education states that while “It is tempting, even natural, to want to present material exactly how you like to receive it,” doing so can result in “reaching only a small cohort of students.” Instead, future educators being trained at Harvard are advised to vary the way that they present new concepts to students in order to reach students who learn and process information in a variety of ways. I couldn’t agree more. With every subject that I teach, I try to allow my children (or my students when I was working as a teacher) to encounter that concept in a variety of ways. More specifically, I try to provide activities that allow visual, auditory, and “hands-on” learning.
In this spirit I have assembled my 7 favorite ways to teach multiplication tables to students of all learning styles.
1. Introduce Multiplication Using Bead Boards and Control Charts (Visual and Hands-On Learning)
When introducing multiplication to new students, the most important thing is that they thoroughly understand what multiplication really IS. Visual aids are essential for this. One of the most straightforward and easy to use is the Montessori Multiplication Bead Board. For a problem like 6×4, children will create four rows of six beads each. Actually picking up the beads and creating the multiplication problem, then counting the beads to find the answer, really cements in the child’s head what multiplication is all about. This Amazon seller offers both the Montessori Multiplication and Division Bead Boards for less than half of what you would pay for just the Multiplication board from other sellers.
Purchase the Montessori Multiplication AND Division Bead Boards on Amazon
Once your child truly understands what multiplication means, they must drill the multiplication facts until they are second nature. As a high school tutor for 10 years, it was saddening to me to see how many high school students, who carried A’s and B’s in math, couldn’t do multiplication without a calculator. Memorization and retention of multiplication facts requires practice. But that practice can be interesting, varied, and fun.
The first thing I do when beginning to drill multiplication facts is to have my children create their own multiplication control chart. My kids are always allowed to reference this chart as they work on their facts. I have had some parents express worry to me that if their children have constant access to the correct answers that they won’t need to memorize them. This isn’t true. You want your child to see the correct answer to a multiplication fact many times, and repeat it many times. You don’t want your child constantly counting up to try to find the answer and then getting it wrong some of the time. This “muddies the waters” so to speak and makes it much harder for the student to retain the correct information. You can click on the links below to download a multiplication control chart as well as a blank chart for your child to fill in. This is an activity that bears repeating. Have your child copy the chart to a new blank sheet as often as they are willing.
Montessori Multiplication Finger Chart
Blank Montessori Multiplication Finger Chart
Once you have introduced the concept of Multiplication and created your Control Chart, it’s time to get down to some Multiplication FUN!
2. Multiplication Songs and Videos (Auditory and Visual Learning)
You might be surprised how quickly kids can memorize facts when those facts are presented repeatedly in song. The classic Schoolhouse Rock for multiplication is available for free on YouTube:
School House Multiplication Rock on YouTube
You can then increase your child’s exposure to these catchy songs by listening to the Schoolhouse Rock Multiplication album on Spotify:
Multiplication Rock Album on Spotify
Finally, if you want a learning resource that combines song, video, mnemonic tricks, and written practice, you can try Times Tales. I’ve never personally used this program but I have friends who absolutely rave about it.
Purchase Times Tales DVD and Workbook on Amazon
3. Multiplication Wrap-Ups (Visual and Hands-On Learning)
I love this game because it is inexpensive, has tons of replay value, and is self-correcting (even without the control chart). All of my kids have learned their times tables using wrap-ups and the same Wrap-Up toy has been passed down for 12 years. That’s money well spent!
Purchase Multiplication Wrap-Ups on Amazon
4. Multiplication Online Games (Visual Learning)
I’m not usually a big fan of learning math online. I don’t like my kids to spend a lot of time in front of screens. However, I think drilling multiplication through fun electronic games can help students retain their math facts, as long as the resource is used sparingly. My absolute favorite online multiplication game is called Clear It and can be found at the link below. I get nothing for recommending this game, I’m just telling you that I personally really like it. The concept is simple. There is a target number at the top of the screen and kids click on numbers from a grid below that must be multiplied together to make the target number. What I like about Clear It is that kids can use more than two factors to reach the target number. If the child uses the bonus tile (marked with a star) they get more points. I highly recommend it.
Clear It Multiplication Game
For more online resources, the following website has a large variety of fun games focused exclusively on multiplication facts. They make a great reward when other forms of practice have been completed.
Visit multiplication.com for Multiplication Games
5. Skip Count Catch (Gross Motor Skills, Auditory, and Visual Learning)
This game is great because it combines physical exertion with memory. It is simple to play. You just need 2 or more players and something to throw in the air (ball, Frisbee, balloon, etc.) A particular times table (or skip count) is selected, and as each player catches the ball, they must yell out the next fact while the ball is in the air to their partner. So for example, the first player would throw the ball into the air and yell “3!” The next player has to catch the ball and immediately throw it up again yelling “6!” This goes on until the final number is reached. If the ball is dropped or someone yells out the wrong number, then the team starts over. The game can be played competitively or cooperatively, and the team can race the clock to beat their old record.
6. Good Old Fashioned Drilling (Visual and Hands-On Learning)
It’s boring. It’s sure to elicit groans from your kids. But in the end, writing down the times tables over and over and over has been done for decades because it works. A recommendation for making it “less awful” involves placing the drill sheets in dry erase pockets and then allowing your child to use a fine tip dry erase marker to complete the fact practice. Not only does this save trees and save money on ink, there’s something about dry erase that kids just love.
The Math Drills website has all the multiplication fact sheets that you could ever need available for free download. I recommend the following progression: Begin with their Section 27 – “Repetitive Multiplication – One Fact Per Page.” Move through all the tables from 1 to 12. When your child can complete these pages quickly and efficiently, begin mixing it up with their Section 23 – “Multiplication Facts to 12 x 12 = 144 with 100 Questions Per Page.”
Multiplication Drill Sheets
Here’s a link to get reusable dry erase sleeves and fine line dry erase markers. (If you are interested in purchasing any of the products I recommend on my blog, please consider placing them in your cart using one of my links. I earn a small commission that helps me purchase more products to review on the blog, and you don’t pay a penny more.)
These sleeves come in a smaller pack size…less expensive and perfect if you aren’t outfitting an entire school:
Purchase Reusable Dry Erase Sleeves
These markers have the finest tips I’ve seen and they are Expo brand, so they last a long time:
Purchase Expo Fine Line Dry Erase Markers
7. Games (Visual, Auditory, and Hands-On Learning)
I have looked through quite a few multiplication games and these are the two that I purchased for my family. I like Jumpin’ Chips because it is actually 5 games in 1 AND it teaches all the facts through 12 x 12, which is very important to me. You would be surprised how many “multiplication games” sold online and in stores don’t actually teach all the times tables.
Purchase Jumpin’ Chips Multiplication
The other multiplication game I recommend (and purchased for my kids) is the card game Zoom! I have yet to find a student who doesn’t enjoy this game. It’s just plain fun to play…even for mom!
When I first started tutoring math, I made up a game that is still a perennial favorite. To play, get a regular deck of cards and remove the Jacks and Queens. For the purpose of the game, Aces will count as 11 and Kings will count as 12. (If this is too confusing for your child, you can simply eliminate the Aces and Kings and the game will simply leave out the 11 and 12 times tables.) Shuffle the cards and place them in a stack face down in front of the student. You then select which times table the student is going to work on. Let’s say you choose fours. This is a timed game, so on your signal the student will turn over the first card from the top of the deck. Whatever is on the card needs to be multiplied by 4 (since you have chosen the four times table). So, if a 5 is turned over, the student will say out loud “four times five equals 20.” They then flip over the next card in the stack and keep going. The reason this game continues to be so popular with my students is that I keep track of their fastest time getting through the deck for each multiplication table. If they beat their best time, they get a quarter. You could easily substitute the money prize with any number of other rewards, but I’ve found that attaching a prize to the game really gets the kids interested in improving. The other thing I love about this game is that it requires the child to speak the multiplication fact out loud multiple times. This reinforces their retention of the fact tremendously.
I hope these resources help you find new and enjoyable ways of drilling multiplication with your child. If you have a multiplication favorite that isn’t mentioned, please leave me a comment and let me know what you like to do at your home. Happy Multiplying!