Help Your Child FINALLY Master Multiplication

Your child is working on their math homework and they ask you “what’s 3 x 7?”. You stop to look at them and realize that they aren’t trying to test you...they don’t know the fact. You tell them to figure it out on their own and they take a looong time counting on their fingers or adding up 7’s or 3’s on the side of the paper. A math problem that should have taken a few minutes takes ten. You thought they had their multiplication facts memorized!! You’ve been working on flashcards for what seems like ages!! But, they just don’t seem to stick.





If the scene above is happening in your house, and it’s causing tension, tears, and slow homework sessions, please know that you’re not alone. Not by a long shot! Many math students struggle to memorize their multiplication facts. The good news is- there are things you can do to help your child become quicker and more comfortable with multiplication. In the month of March, I want to challenge you to do something that might seem radical at first - ditch memorizing multiplication facts. Instead, focus on the strategies outlined below. If traditional flashcards and drills aren’t working for your child...what’s there to lose? Here’s how to get started - I promise it’s not hard (and it can actually be more fun than flashcards).


Why multiplication is hard for your child to memorize


Your child may have a hard time memorizing their facts, or they may seem to have them memorized one moment and forget them the next. This is completely normal, and your child is definitely not alone! Straight memorization of so many facts can be difficult for kids to keep in their head- especially if they don’t have a solid understanding to tie it to. If they have their facts memorized and don’t practice for a while, it’s reasonable that they will forget. Do you remember cramming for tests in school and then forgetting the information the next day? Additionally, high-pressure situations such as timed tests and high expectations from parents and teachers can keep your child from reaching their full potential when trying to master their facts by causing math anxiety.


Why master instead of memorize?


We encourage most students to master their multiplication facts instead of memorizing them. Odds are, if a student is having trouble memorizing facts, they may never reach a moment where they have them on concrete in their head where they will stay for the rest of their life. Instead, we want students to be able to recall their multiplication facts within 1-10 seconds, no matter how they bring that information into their mind. Students are often able to use strategies that work for them, along with a good understanding of multiplication, to do this efficiently. Once they become really good at this, no one will know they don’t have every fact memorized.


If you grew up in a traditional school environment where you were expected to memorize most things, this idea of using strategies instead of memorization may seem strange or might even rub you the wrong way. You may be afraid that this method will take more time and effort than just using flashcards to drill your child every night. Read on to see how strategies and low-pressure practice can save your child lots of time and stress. The goal here is to help your child be able to recall their facts to do their math work quickly and comfortably, not to reach the achievement of “having” all their multiplication facts.


Step 1: Nail down the concept


The first step to your child being able to recall multiplication facts quickly is ensuring that they actually understand multiplication and how it works. Not sure if your child knows? Ask them what the word multiplication means or to draw a multiplication problem so that you can gauge their understanding. You need to make sure your child understands that multiplication is repeated addition or the adding of same-size groups. Next, practice making and drawing the following two representations of multiplication. Make it fun by allowing your child to pick some multiplication facts to represent or by using a whiteboard to draw on.


Groupings

  • Students can start their understanding of multiplication by making groupings of objects. Make multiplication facts with your child by creating groups of small objects that they enjoy such as legos, erasers or candies. After creating the problem, have your child tell you what they’ve made. An example sentence can be “I made ____ groups of ____ to represent the fact ___x___”. So if your child used their legos to make 3 x 4 they would say “I made four groups of three to represent three times four”. You can move on to drawing the groupings to make this practice more efficient and less messy (example below).






Areas and Arrays

  • Once your child can show multiplication using groupings, they can move on to the more organized representations. Arrays help students visualize larger multiplication problems without having to use or draw so many individual objects. You can practice making arrays with square math tiles or backsplash tiles from the hardware store. Once your child builds an array, practice drawing it (example below).



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