There is no way around it. The students have to practice, practice, practice. It is like riding a bike or learning how to swim. It is very difficult and scary to begin, there are falls and panicky times along the way, but once the skill is learned it becomes second nature. Whether it be flash cards, a computer game, or any other method, time has to be spent reviewing the facts.
Instead of giving up, and moving on with our curriculum, we have developed many ideas and activities to help those students that have not yet mastered their facts. We hope you enjoy the top 5 tips that we use to help our students master the multiplication facts.
1. Tricks and Mnemonic DevicesI'm sure many of you have seen the 9s trick before. It is an amazingly simple trick that all the student needs is his hands. Take a look at the picture below.
The fifth finger is down which represents 5 x 9. Take a look at the fingers before (4) and the fingers after (5). There is your answer 45! Try another one yourself. Put your 7th finger down. There should be 6 fingers before and three fingers after (63)! this works all the way up to 9 x 9! Nines will no longer be a problem for your students!
Another strategy we use with struggling students is repeated addition. This is a simple way to reinforce that multiplication is related to addition, a skill that all of them should have. Start off small with a problem like 2 + 2 + 2 = 6 which is the same as 2 x 3 = 6. If you get to a bigger problem such as 6 x 4, have them use the number that they can count easier with. So the problem would look like 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 24. When you are able to relate multiplication to addition it is a familiar concept that students are more comfortable with.
We also teach students to look for and understand patterns. When multiplying two even numbers together you will always get an even answer. When multiplying two odd number together, you will always get an odd answer. We also go over the 5s, that when multiplying by this number the answer will always end in a 5 or 0. When multiplying any number by two it simply doubles the bigger number. There are many other patterns out there to discover as well.
Here is a FREE sheet that we have the students keep in their math folders to reference as well.
2. GamesWho doesn't love to play games? I know my students love it when I announce we are going to play a game in math. One that I love to use is Multiplication War. This is like the regular War card game. Each players gets half the deck. But instead of the high card taking the cards when flipped up, the students have to multiply the two cards together! If there is a tie, then they put two cards down and flip the third up. The winner then gets all the cards. When we start playing this, I take out all the face cards. Each card represents it's number and Aces = 1. I try to match students up based on the knowledge of their facts which makes the games more competitive. The students can either play until someone has all the cards, or for a time limit as well.
We have also developed Multiplication Game Boards that are designed for any of the facts. So if a pair of students is struggling on their 4s, they can play the game board together. If you have students that are doing well, you can give them the mixed envelope that has facts of 6s,7s, and 8s. Once again, we team students up based on ability so it is more enjoyable for the students. It's also a great way for them to see which facts of each number they still need to practice. Click on the below picture to access the game boards.
We don't go to the computer lab that often, but we have found a few online games that are suitable and fun for our students. Here is a favorite website with lots of games to choose from: http://www.multiplication.com/games Our students also like this one as well: http://www.fun4thebrain.com/mult.html.
It is a great break for the students and makes learning the facts fun as well!
3. Multiplication Raps and Rhymes
Many of my students are in to rap music. Making up a multiplication rap is a fun way for students to remember the facts. I even tried my talents at this with the 6s,7s, and 8s (the most troublesome for my students) as you can see below by clicking on the picture to access the FREE rap. If you can find a rhyme to use to help students learn the facts, I would definitely try it. Maybe even let them explore their creativity and make up their own!
4. ContestsAfter so many years of seeing students struggle, we developed some contests to try and inspire our classes to learn their facts. So often teachers put up a board in the room with everyone's names and Xs by the facts that they pass. We have found that does not help the lowers students, but rather has the opposite effect. Students tend to give up, and even act out in class due to others teasing them or saying they are dumb. Instead of this approach we made up a fun contest called The Great Multiplication Race. In this contest students are racing against themselves and not each other. Each student gets their own chart that they keep in their desk, and that is not displayed in the room. When students pass a level they move on to the next challenger like "The Fabulous Fours." When they pass all of the facts in one minute, they move onto 30 seconds. This is a great challenge to the advanced learners as well. This motivational program got our kids excited to do speed races without being graded or singled out for where they are.
We also have used a Multiplication Money Contest with our students in different years. We know that not all students learn the same, so we came up with a unique contest that involves fake money that students earn and can use to purchase items in our class store. We also developed rewards when the whole class passes each number. They really loved doing special class celebrations together to celebrate their achievements!
5. Real-Life ApplicationTying real-life experiences to multiplication also helps the students understand why it is important to master the facts. We often use places that the students have gone to, and will go to in the future as examples. A great place to start is the grocery store. We talk about needing to buy 3 dozen eggs (3 x 12), two packs of gum with each pack having 6 ( 2 x 6), four twelve packs of soda (12 x 4) and so on. The students start to realize the importance. Then we start talking about electronics! This is where they sit up more in their chairs and the doodling stops. We talk about items that matter to them such as: iTunes, mp3, and video games. An example would be: John (insert name of student) wanted to buy three albums (insert popular bands) on iTunes that each cost $8, how much would he have to spend? It is amazing to see how students will work harder to figure out this type of problem. We have also used the topic of buying comic books or looking at collections (sports cards, stuffed animals...) and using multiplication for different scenarios as well. Making connections to their lives truly does make a difference.
We hope you were able to take at least one idea from our post to use in your classroom. If you have any great ideas, please share them as well!