Teaching Multiplication to Grade School Students

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When Are Students Ready?

Good advice tells you to wash and repeat each of the multiplications activities contained here. Do not force students to meet a deadline that applies to when one should know how to multiply, as some believe. You have heard that every child is different, and the expression could not be truer for math study. It is much better to wait for the child to reach a level of maturity that will allow multiplication constructs to come easier to them. Math given in the correct doses and at the proper time works for you, the teacher, and most importantly for the learner, plus there is a chance for students to find out why we do math instead of just memorizing math.

How will I know when each student is ready for multiplication?

  • When they can skip count.
  • When they have mastered addition facts.
  • When they are able to count large numbers.

Find out how much the student knows by reviewing this multiplication word problem assessment article.

Picture Multiplication

As in addition, pictures are used to teach the very basic concepts of multiplication so that the learner can quickly relate what has to be learned to what they can understand.

Take 2 different groups of objects to find the product.


How many watermelons do you see?

Students give the answer based on the picture:

2 X ___ =

How many seeds are there in each watermelon?

Students reply:

Ex. 2 X 15 =

Give them the answer of 30. Tell them that you got your answer by multiplying the watermelons by the seeds in just one watermelon to get the total amount of seeds.

Ask students to count all of the seeds again as a whole, meaning count the seeds as one group rather than two (separately in each watermelon).

Explain to them that the only difference between the product and the sum is how fast they arrive at each answer.

Groups of Graphs

This strategy is not new but worth another mention. Get graphing paper for the class and pass out enough sheets so that everyone can work on several problems in a session. Write a problem on the board.

Example: 5 X 2

To this, students will color in 2 rows of squares across and 5 columns down and vice versa in another section of the paper. When they do this, already have on the board the problem broken down in addition (5 + 5). Through both operations, students will see that the product is always the same and it always matches the sum.

Multiplied Pictures

Further, extend multiplication to real life by using cut-out pictures of everyday container objects. Automobiles, food containers, household supply containers, and furniture (i.e., a couch) make good pictures to cut out. When it is time to fill up the containers, students can search for their own cutouts. At the bottom of each pasted-on picture problem (containers plus matching items to be placed inside), students will write out the answer.

You can work on any number in the multiplication table with this activity as long as you have enough pictures to make it interesting and to allow for enough practice. Work on this daily and expand to accommodate the needs of each individual.

5’s, 10’s and 6’s, 7’s, 8’s

5’s and 10’s should be easy multiplication facts for students to learn because they are already proficient at skip counting. Expect to move on from these quickly then choosing other numbers that have easier facts to retain. Lower digits work well here as well as higher digit making middle numbers, like 6, 7, 8, more difficult for students to grasp. Do not worry about following order here and students will be quite familiar with these facts when you start to work on them as a group due to past activities involving skip counted numbers and numbers at each end of the table. Always keep the learning loose but purposeful.

Multiplying Day-to-Day

Gather manipulatives to multiply small numbers.

You can take any object in your classroom that you have multiples of such as three pencil boxes and four pencil sharpeners per box. Lay each set out in front of the group and ask them how many objects you have in all. The students will count them one-by-one.

Continue this activity for several days in a row and change up the objects but keep the amounts the same. Through repetition and familiarity, the students will catch on that the answer will always be the same but they will see that they know the answer without counting each piece singularly.

As you go on the amounts can change and the student can start to come up with their own problems.

Practice Makes Perfect

With more practice, the student will have mastered multiplication before you know it. When this is done, you can introduce division. The best way to explain this operation is as reverse multiplication. You can give examples in the same manners as used for multiplication that will ease students into division.