It’s no secret that teaching math concepts can be a daunting task, especially when taking a leap from concrete and simple operations to more abstract math problems where finger or object counting is no longer possible. This is the time where children must learn to calculate math problems in their head, using prior knowledge.
Since addition and subtraction are usually based on actual objects that children have observed in the environment, multiplication becomes the first arithmetical operation where children will deal with abstract number representations. So, naturally, as a teacher, homeschool tutor, or even parent, you would like to know how to learn multiplication tables, so you can help your child or students make this cognitive leap as smoothly as possible.
In this article, we’ll show you how to explain the concept of multiplication in a simple way, and then break down three crucial steps that will help your students memorize multiplication tables fast.
How to Learn Multiplication Tables?
Before we take a look at some of the specific activities through which your student or child can train their memory and learn multiplication tables in a fun way, we should say a word or two on how to motivate children in learning multiplication.
Let’s face it, math has a bad rep because you can’t teach it through a captivating story or let children learn through their senses, which is the dominant way kids learn new things. However, you can still fight this stereotype by making math fun and relatable.
The first step is to explain to children “why” learning multiplication is important, not just how they should memorize the multiplication tables. If you do this right, you’ll motivate students to learn, which is imperative for the learning process.
Say something along the lines of: “If we want to be smart when we grow up and solve problems, we need to learn multiplication. With multiplication, we can calculate how much money we need when we travel, or find out how much food we need to buy if 9 friends are coming to our birthday party.”
Relate Multiplication to Addition
The best way for children to learn new concepts is if you associate them with something they already know. Before learning multiplication tables, kids should be comfortable with skip counting solving addition and subtraction operations, so relate multiplication to addition.
To avoid creating anxiety when telling children they should memorize the whole multiplication table, first learn multiplication as repeated addition with practical examples. After this, slowly start introducing higher numbers and present the multiplication table as a handy tool through which kids can search for the answers.
When they have understood the concept of multiplication and are comfortable with using the multiplication table, give children specific memory tasks, instead of simply asking them to memorize the whole multiplication table.
How to Memorize Multiplication Tables?
The easiest way to learn multiplication tables is by engaging in a range of activities that train children’s memory without them actively trying to memorize multiplication answers by simple repetition. Here’s how.
Step 1: Familiarize Children With Multiplication Tables
The activities explained below help children familiarize themselves with multiplication tables and feel comfortable when using them without the pressure of knowing them by heart, right from the start.
Write a Multiplication Table
Instead of printing and dividing multiplication tables to each student, make one large poster, and ask students to write their own multiplication table. Let them copy the table on a drawing block using color pencils of their choosing. The goal is for every child to write their own multiplication table with the colors they love the most. This is going to make them more involved and focused on the activity.
Recite the Multiplication Table Forward and Backward
Once they finish writing the multiplication table, ask students to read it out loud both ways – forward and backward. They should do this slowly and carefully.
After this, instruct children to form pairs and try to recite the multiplication table to their partner, without looking at the paper. Encourage students to help each other.
Skip-counting is probably the best math skill for memorizing multiplication tables without simply repeating the numbers.
The wonderful thing about multiplication is that it follows a strict pattern, which children can learn by skip-counting. This way, they’ll not only learn how to memorize the multiplication table but will also have fun doing it.
Skip-counting is counting forward and backward by any number that’s not one. For example, skip-counting by 2, would be, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc. Skip-counting by 6 would be 6, 12, 18, 24, and so on.
To make things really easy and fun, you can show students how to skip-count to song tunes. This will not only help them memorize the pattern fast but also make the process effortless.
Here’s one example of skip-counting to songs:
Step 2: Train Children’s Memory
The activities in step one help encode (initial learning of information) multiplication in kids’ memory, while the activities in step two help that information be consolidated and stored in long-term memory.
There are many activities that can achieve this, but we chose the ones that children will absolutely enjoy.
Play Flash Cards
Color flashcards for learning multiplication are an amazing way for children to see the patterns as the numbers double, and make stronger neuron connections which will prevent them from forgetting what they’ve learned.
Here are a few task examples of how to utilize multiplication flashcards in the classroom or homeschool environment:
- Choose a flashcard and then write a related multiplication equation that gives the same answer as the chosen flashcard (learning the commutative property). Repeat the process 10 times or more.
- Choose a number of flashcards and order them from highest to lowest (or lowest to highest) product without looking at the answers!
- Choose a flashcard and write a multiplication array for the equation. Repeat the process 10 times or more.
- Sort the flashcards into even and odd products without looking at the answers!
- Go through the flashcards trying to guess each product, separating the flashcards into two piles – the ones you know and the ones you don’t know. After this, take the “The ones I don’t know” pile and go through them again, separating them into two piles once more. Repeat the same procedure, until there are no more cards left in the “The ones I don’t know” pile.
Play Speed-quiz in Small Groups
Another great classroom activity for practicing math skills is the Speed-quiz. You can apply it to any subject topic, including learning multiplication tables.
How does it work?
- Divide the classroom into four or five groups (four to five students in each group).
- Give instructions. Each student in the group has five multiplication questions that other members should answer. The student that answers first gets a point. Once every student has asked questions, the points are summarized. The first-ranked students from each group form a new group. It goes the same for the second, third, fourth, and fifth-ranked students.
- Set ground rules. For example, kids should only ask questions/equations with numbers up to 10, depending on their grade-level.
Learn Through Workshops
Is there a better way to evaluate your students’ multiplication skills without scaring them with the word “test” than with worksheets?
Using educational worksheets during class or in a home environment gives you an opportunity to improve kids’ multiplication skills and get feedback on their progress at the same time, with very little effort. Best of all is that students perceive them as a fun stress-free activity.
For all of your second graders (ages 7-8), you can use the Multiplication Foundations Facts & Worksheets bundle, including a lesson plan and 29 activity pages that will help you build the foundation and give students a basic understanding of what multiplication is.
Third graders (ages 8-9) are ready for a deeper discussion about multiplications, which means they’ll benefit from working with more advanced multiplication worksheets. You can use:
- Multiply and Divide within 100 Facts & Worksheets – learn how to multiply and divide within 100 with ease.
- Problems Involving Multiplication and Division Facts & Worksheets – learn how to interpret equations.
- Properties of Operations in Multiplication and Division Facts & Worksheets – learn about the properties of operation in greater detail.
Play “Math Card War”
Kids learn a lot when they play games, even if they’re not aware of it. So, how to memorize multiplication tables through card games?
All you need is a regular deck of cards without the jokers. Give each player an equal number of cards, until the deck is fully spent. Then, the players draw two cards from the top of their pile and place them on the table. The player with the highest multiplication product (from their first and second card) wins and takes all the cards on the table. The player who ends up with the most taken cards wins the game.
You can either exclude jacks, queens, and kings or give them number values (11, 12, 13), depending on how advanced students are.
Step 3: Reinforce Learned Material
Taking things one step further when you want to memorize multiplication tables fast means to also implement passive learning techniques. Instruct students to use these techniques at home for maximizing their effectiveness.
Read Stories About Multiplication
We said that you can’t learn math through captivating stories, but Greg Tang is one author who wants to challenge that. He has written the “The Best of Times”, a book in which he tries to teach children innovative ways to multiply numbers and derive answers without actively trying to memorize the multiplication tables.
Other examples of math-themed children’s books for learning multiplication:
- “Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream” by Cindy Neuschwander – (suitable for 2nd grade – 4th grade).
- “The Lion’s Share” by Matthew McElligott – (suitable for 1st grade – 3rd grade)
- “Multiplying Menace” by Pam Calvert – (suitable for 3rd grade – 6th grade)
Listen to Songs About Multiplication
Because children have different learning styles, some kids might prefer listening instead of reading, which is why we have you covered there, too.
Listening to songs about multiplication in the background is a highly-effective way of memorizing multiplication tables passively.
Here are a few examples of such songs:
Tips for Learning Multiplication Tables Fast
Unfortunately, even with all these activities, some children will struggle to learn multiplication tables a little bit more than others. How to help them?
Here are two different tricks or tips for memorizing multiplication tables.
Memorize the “Landmark Numbers” First
Landmark or easy numbers are those which follow the most obvious and easy-to-see pattern, which is why they’re wonderful kick-starters when trying to memorize the multiplication table. Here’s where to start:
- Multiplication with the number 0 is known as the zero-product property because each number multiplied by zero is zero.
- Multiplication with the number 1 is known as the identity property because each number multiplied by 1 gets the same value as before the multiplication.
- Multiplication with the number 2 is the same as adding the number to itself (doubling the number). For example, 4×2 = 4+4, 6×2 = 6+6, etc.
- Multiplication with the number 5 follows a very easy pattern. The product ends up in 5 or 0. For example, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35…
- Multiplication with the number 10 is probably the easiest of them all – simply add 0 to the number. For example, 2 x10 = 20, 4 x 10 = 40, 7×10 = 70, etc.
Learn the 9s Trick
Another number that has an easy pattern when multiplied is the number 9. The second digit in the product is always one number lower than its predecessor. For example: 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90.
You can also calculate this using your fingers. Put up your hands, fingers spread with the palms turned away from you. Start counting from left to right with the number you wish to multiply nine. For example, let’s say you want to multiply five with nine. Count the fingers starting from your left side, and put down the fifth finger you’ve counted. The fingers on the left of the fifth finger represent the first digit of the product, while the fingers on the right side represent the second digit.
Before You Leave
Multiplication isn’t as hard and tedious to teach as some might think. The trick lies in finding the right tools and techniques when introducing students to multiplication tables for the first time. As we already elaborated in this article, you should first start by including the “why” when explaining multiplication. After this, simply follow our steps and choose the activities you find most interesting – we made sure to share a bunch of them.
If you liked this article and want to find more teaching resources for all of your future lessons, simply browse our worksheet library, subscribe to our newsletter, or regularly visit our blog. Whatever your teaching needs, we’ve got you covered.
P.S. If you’re a math teacher for students ranging in age from kindergarten all the way up to pre-calculus, you’ll definitely want to check out MathTeacherCoach! It’s packed the all-in-one-solution for CCSS math curriculum. It boasts presentations, lesson plans, activities, guided notes, quizzes, bell work, review tests, and more. Alternatively, build your own quizzes with a bank of thousands of questions at HelpTeaching.com!
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