How old were you when you learned your multiplication facts?
Knowing basic math facts and skills is the foundation of strong math progress, yet multiplication seems daunting to many children and parents. I often tell students that if they do not know their math facts they can still get the right answer, but their classmates who know their math facts will get the answer faster. In elementary school the time gap is not as apparent as it is in middle school and beyond. Start with conceptualizing the facts, add some counting and reasoning strategies, and then work on fact mastery. Mastering multiplication facts does not have to be a painful experience.
Most schools try to have students be fluent in the one by one digit multiplication facts by memory by the end of grade 3 as they conceptualize multiplication and division. Fluency is as important in math as in reading no matter the access to calculators and audio books. However, straight memorization of math facts without a concept of multiplication is like memorizing the alphabet without understanding that the letters represent sounds that blend together to make words.
How can parents and tutors help children learn to master the multiplication facts? Find a system or strategy that works best for the particular child and then lots of practice with some fun games sprinkle in. Below are several strategies to try. Aim for 10-15 minutes of practice a day and keep a deck of cards or flashcards handy for some extra practice time while you are waiting at a restaurant or in carpool line. I’ve linked some free and inexpensive resources below.
Consider asking the child which idea below sounds interesting before just assuming it will work. I would have hated having to memorize the facts to music, but being able to see how few facts I had left to memorize on the multiplication chart would have motivated me! Let me know in the comments which ones your child wants to try.
Strategies to Master Multiplication
Fast adding to visualize multiplication (2+2+2+2 = 8 is literally 2 four times) Use beads, legos, etc. to group and ungroup equal groups. You can connect this to individual multiplication cards or word problems. Here’s an idea of what it is. (I do not recommend just printing worksheet, but use this to get an idea of how to work with fast adding.)
Skip Counting by a particular number or coloring in on a hundreds board will help identify patterns in multiplication. Free printable hundreds board here. And skip counting worksheets can be found here.
Multiplication Chart I often take a free multiplication chart and have students color in the facts they already know (typically the 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10s, and 11s) and concentrate on the facts they have not mastered. They are encouraged to see it’s not as daunting as they thought. This program here is similar. The Fastest Way to Learn Math Facts
Triangle Flash Cards Number bonds/factor triangles are a good way to work on both multiplication and division facts. Here’s a free printable. You cover up one part of the triangle with your finger and fill in the missing number.
Music and movement can tie in both sides of the brain when memorizing multiplication facts. Some children love memorizing silly songs or sayings to help them with their math facts. Here’s a blog with lots of song options.
Fun games and activities to practice multiplication mastery and speed recall
Dice games: roll 2 dice and find the product which will be your score. You can get 12 sided dice! Or dice within dice for more fun! Works for addition facts, too. Decide on the number of rounds to play and the player with the highest total score wins.
Domino game: Multiply the two sets of dots on a domino tile or line up all the facts in order. Here’s a suggestion.
Timed tests Math Minute (online or printable) Typically I go for 1 to 3 minute tests with 30-50 problems, record the score, then let them finish the test untimed. Goal is to show improvement each time until they can do them quickly, easily, and correctly. Can do by fact families or mixed sets. Use your own judgment for number of problems and time allotted.
Timed flash cards: set the timer for one minute and see how many they can get correct in one minute. Wrong or too slow cards go in discard pile. Correct ones in student pile. Goal is to beat their own score each time, and have less and less in the discard pile. If time has not run out, I go back through the discard pile. Can do by fact families or mixed set. I would use regular flashcards not the triangle ones for this activity.
Card games: Play war using a deck of cards. Divide the deck among the 2 players. Each player flips over top 2 cards and multiplies the numbers. The highest product wins all 4 cards. Continue like the regular game of war.
Online games: multiplication.com
Quick tip: Slide a printable page into a page protector and use thin dry erase markers to create your own reusable worksheet or game board.
Want more dice and card games for math? Check this blog.
Want to do this with legos? There’s a blog with tips for that.
There you have it! You and your child can master multiplication facts and begin building a strong basis for math progress. It is not too late.
Another free game board here. https://www.tailorjoy.com/2022/11/15/four-in-a-row-game-board/
Sensory Learning Strategies here. https://www.tailorjoy.com/2021/04/20/sensory-strategies-for-learning/
Table Talk: What strategy worked for you when it came to memorizing multiplication facts? Who in your family would win a 100 problems in 5 minutes drill?