When kids are learning multiplication facts, just a few really stellar multiplication tricks can make ALL the difference.
Learning multiplication times tables can feel hugely overwhelming. A third-grader presented with a multiplication chart is looking at 144 math facts to be learned!
Luckily, these 10 smart strategies can help kids move quickly through the times tables, more quickly than they (or you) ever thought possible.
1. Learning multiplication facts out of order
Learn the easiest facts first.
Common sense tells us that all the smaller numbers will be easier to learn, while the larger numbers are more challenging–but in this case, common sense would be wrong.
Start by learning these facts: 1s, 2s, 10s, 5s, and 11s. Third graders are already fluent in counting by 2, 5, and 10, and the 11s have a pattern that makes them quite easy to remember.
Next, learn 4s, 3s, 9s, and 12s. There are some great tricks in this article that make these surprisingly easy to remember.
Finally, learn 6s, 7s and 8s. By the time kids get to the hardest facts, there will be only a handful left to learn!
2. Instead of “times”, say “of”
An easy way to quickly make math make sense is to say “of” instead of “times” when you read a multiplication problem.
This could be “groups of”, “sets of”, “rows of”… The idea is that there are equal amounts OF a number.
“Four times eight” means nothing more to a kid than a random rule to memorize. But “four (rows) of eight” might conjure up a picture like this:
Reading a multiplication problem using “groups of” language conjures up a picture that kids can draw or picture in their minds so it becomes a concept they can think and reason about.
Kids don’t automatically know that the answer to 2×3 is the same as 3×2.
Don’t just teach the rule; help your child understand the connection by drawing an array, or rectangle, like this one.
This picture shows 2 rows of 3, or 2×3. But if you turn the picture on its side, it shows 3 rows of 2 (or 3×2).
Once kids understand this “flip-around rule”, learning multiplication facts will happen twice as fast!
4. Square number facts
Square number facts are what many kids think of as “doubles” in multiplication.
There is a natural rhythm to saying these facts out loud, which may be one of the reasons they are easier for kids to learn.
FUN FACT: Ever wonder why these are called square numbers? It’s because when they are drawn in rows or columns, they will always make a square.
5. Look for patterns
Sometimes all kids need to do in order to remember a set of facts is to see the pattern that holds them together.
Write out a set of multiplication facts in a column, then ask, “What pattern do you see?”
11 x 1 = 11
11 x 2 = 22
11 x 3 = 33 … and so on.
This strategy works especially well for learning multiplication facts 2s, 5s, 10s, 11s, 12s, and 9s. Nines have some incredibly awesome patterns! Take a look…
6. Nines patterns
Nines are super fun to learn! Nines are jam-packed full of patterns that are not only incredibly cool, but they make the 9 times tables surprisingly easy to remember.
Write the nines in a column like this. Look closely. What patterns do you see?
- What do you notice when you read the column top to bottom?
- Add the digits of each number together. What do you notice?
- Find mirror numbers: like 18 and 81. What other mirror numbers can you find?
- What other patterns do you see?
- The answer to 9×2 starts with a 1. The answer to 9×3 starts with a 2. The answer to 9×4 starts with a 3. What’s the pattern?
7. Break apart hard facts into easy facts
Sixes are hard for a lot of kids. But if you think about it, 6×4 is just 5×4 plus 1×4. Both of those are easier facts, and you can do the rest in your head: 20+4=24.
If you don’t know a multiplication fact, break it into facts you do know.
- 3×9 is the same as 2×9 plus 1×9. Add them together: 18+9=27
- 12×6 is the same as 10×6 plus 2×6. Add them together: 60+12=72
- 4×8 is the same as 5×8 minus 1×8. 40-8=32
Here is a video that explains why this works:
8. Whisper and shout (fours, sixes, eights)
Some multiplication facts are doubles of another fact.
Take the 4 times tables. If you count by twos, every other number will be a multiple of four:
(2) 4 (6) 8 (10) 12…
When learning the fours times tables, kids who know their twos can use the whisper and shout strategy. Simply count by twos and whisper the first number, and shout the next one:
(two) – FOUR – (six) – EIGHT – (ten) – TWELVE…
Little by little, say the whispered twos more and more quietly, until you are only saying the fours out loud. Your ear will get used to hearing only the fours, and pretty soon you won’t need the whisper shout strategy.
This strategy is best for 4 times tables (counting by 2s), 6 times tables (counting by threes), or for 8 times tables (counting by 4s).
9. Rhyming Sixes
There are just a few tricky sixes, and some of them rhyme.
Six times four is 24.
Six times six is 36.
Six times eight is 48.
When kids get stuck on these facts, just give a hint: “This one rhymes!”
10. Cross off the ones you know
Even when kids are making good progress learning multiplication facts, they might still feel overwhelmed and not realize how far they’ve come.
This strategy will show kids all the facts they already know, and give a motivational boost to help them learn the few facts still remaining.
Print out a multiplication chart. Then cross out the facts you already know. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it dwindles down to manageable bite size!
(Watch the video to see how.)
These few tricks will make learning multiplication soooo much easier!
Have a thought or question about any of these multiplication strategies? Leave a comment below!