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How to Teach Multiplication to Struggling Students

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Do you have students who struggle with multiplication?

Use a creative approach to make multiplication stick.

Check out these ideas on how to teach multiplication to struggling students.

How to Teach Multiplication to Struggling Students

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Why Multiplication Is Difficult to Grasp

Students may struggle to understand multiplication because it is less intuitive or familiar than addition and subtraction.

The concept of adding and taking away has been a constant in the life of students since they were young.

They have added M&Ms, toys, and Cheerios.

They have given away cards, blocks, and Hot Wheels cars.

Addition and subtraction are extensions of counting and a regular part of daily life. 

Multiplication, on the other hand, is a mathematical shortcut.

It is basically “fast adding.” It involves adding groups of numbers (like 5 groups of 5 items each = 25 items).

This shortcut, while helpful, is much harder to visualize and thus to learn.

How to Teach Multiplication to Struggling Students

Teaching Multiplication: Logic Vs. Memorization

You can multiply using logic or memorization.

The Logic Method

Multiplication facts can be reasoned out.

You can think through 2 groups of 4 (2 x 4 = 8).

Once children learn to skip count, they can use logic to find the answers for all the multiplication facts. 

The logic method ensures the student has an understanding of the nature of multiplication, and it also gives the student practice with mental math skills.

The Memorization Method

You can also drill multiplication facts and commit them to memory, the same way you memorize words to a song or the list of the Presidents.

The memorization method helps the student spit out the facts in record time, making math less time-consuming and easing the process for future, more complicated problems.

Deciding Between the Two

Both methods have their advantages, so why choose between them?

Begin by teaching multiplication through visual cues and hands-on activities (and thus emphasizing the logic), and then give students a boost by teaching memorization.

Until they are pros at the memorization part, these free multiplication bookmarks might come in handy!

How to Teach Multiplication to Struggling Students

Hands-On Methods

When figuring out how to teach multiplication to struggling students, you need to make multiplication as engaging and hands-on as possible.

Start by laying a foundation on what multiplication is (fast adding of groups of numbers).

Pop It Fidgets

You can use pop-it fidgets for multiplication, particularly if the board is rectangular or square.

My favorite pop-it fidget is this 10 x 10 version.

Simply pop your way to various multiplication problems.

5 rows of three each (5 x 3) equals fifteen poppers to pop.

Kids will enjoy depicting multiplication facts again and again.

Multiplication Board

This wooden board was designed for Montessori learners, so it’s the epitome of hands-on!

When the student is given a multiplication fact (say 6 x 10), the student places the peg where the two numbers intersect to find the answer (60).

Fill the Grid

Make a grid on paper in size you choose (5 x 5 or 10 x 10, for example).

You can laminate the paper for reuse.

Then give a multiplication fact (3 x 4) and have the student fill in the grid with small objects (like pennies, Cheerios, paperclips, felt squares etc.) or color in the squares with a dry-erase marker.

I like to end the game with a round using a fun edible token (like Fruit Loops or M&Ms).

Act Out the Story

Memorizing sets of numbers can be extremely challenging.

Make the process more accessible with this classic book that is a genius idea: Times Tables the Fun Way! by Jody Liuataud.

It teaches multiplication facts not by sight but by story.

The numbers become characters in stories to help struggling students remember the facts.

You can read the stories and then draw or act them out to help commit them to memory.

How to Teach Multiplication to Struggling Students

Online Games

Online games make the drill of math facts much more fun.

If you want to know how to teach multiplication to struggling students, you will need to make math facts practice a frequent occurrence.

Splash Learn

The Splash Learn app (formerly Splash Math) is a flexible and friendly math app.

The app has targeted lessons, fun games, and math facts reviews for elementary-age students.

The students can earn rewards for practicing their multiplication facts, and you can see their progress online.

Free Online Games

If you don’t mind putting up with some online ads, has free games such as Cube Dash, Penalty Kicks, and Cannon Ball that practice multiplication facts.

Mathemagics Multiplication App

This app works with a similar principle to the book Times Tables the Fun Way.

It teaches math facts with stories and animations.

The free version lets you try it out with the number 4 times table.

Available at Google Play and in the App Store.

How to Teach Multiplication to Struggling Students

How to Make Multiplication Stick

Multiplication not only takes a jump in reasoning, it also requires the memorization of lots of number patterns.

That’s a tall order!

No wonder many students struggle.

With a hands-on approach that focuses on both logic and memory plus a healthy dose of fun practice, your struggling students will soon be soaring!

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