How to Teach Multiplication Strategies

Ok, I need to be totally transparent with you all. Are you ready? *Takes deep breath*

There was once a time that I did not know how to teach multiplication. I know, I know. It’s really hard to admit that, as a teacher, I had no idea how to teach something. After all, that is my job, right? I’ve previously blogged about my love for teaching multiplication (intro the multiplication blog). The truth is that after I learned how to introduce multiplication conceptually, I wanted to dive right into drill and kill practice. Probably because that’s how I was taught in my school career and honestly, I didn’t know any better. Even as educators, we all have to learn, which is exactly what I did and why I’m hoping you’re reading this blog, too!

You’ve taught the conceptual part of multiplication, so now what? It isn’t actually time for explicit fact memorization. Who knew? Well initially not me, and if you do, then you’re already a step ahead! There’s actually a strategy to teach almost, if not every, multiplication fact up to 10. This blog is primarily based off of a book By Sue O’Connell titled Mastering the Basic Facts, mixed with a little bit of my own classroom experience and knowledge. If you can buy the book, do it! It is a game changer! Just pay attention because there are different books for different grade bands.

Ok, let’s get into strategies used to teach multiplication. This post will be long but brief. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but trust me, it will.

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1. x0 Facts

Times zero facts are surprisingly a little tricky. They appear to be super easy because any number multiplied by a zero is zero, right? Correct. This concept is fine until students start confusing it with addition. In addition, anything added to a zero, is always that number. For example, 6+0=6 but now all of a sudden when we multiply by a zero, it’s always a zero? To help students sort out the confusion, have them act out problems like “Mary had 6 baskets of 0 lollipops. How many lollipops did she have?” Students can physically see that there are baskets (groups) but no lollipops. This eventually can lead into the concept that anything multiplied by a zero is zero.

When considering how to teach multiplication, try problems like “Mary had 6 baskets of 0 lollipops. How many lollipops did she have?” so they can physically see that there are baskets (groups) but no lollipops.

2. x1 Facts

Times one facts are another fact that we deem as easy but can easily be confused with addition as well. Model and act out problems for x1 facts and then move into “anything times 1 is always itself.” The models help students to visually see the “why” behind this strategy.

3. x2 Facts

Times two facts are where we really get rockin’ and rollin’ with strategies and this one actually ties in perfectly to addition, so there’s no confusion for students. The easiest strategy to teach multiplication for twos is to teach students that when you multiply by a 2, you just double the other factor. So for example, 6×2=12. Tell students “I see a x2 fact, so I double the other factor. The other factor is 6 and I know doubling means adding the same number twice. So 6+6=12, therefore 6×2=12.” Students really get on a roll with doubling, which plays a part in later facts.

4. x3 Facts

Times three facts rely heavily on x2 facts. Students can be taught that they multiply by 2 and add 1 additional group. For example, let’s look at 3×7. You can model this strategy by saying “I know that 2×7=14, so if I add another group of 7 to my product, 14+7=21. This is also a sneaky way to introduce the distributive property of multiplication before students even really know that they are doing it. If multiplying x2 and adding a group is a little too hard right now, you can teach the concept of tripling the other factor.

5. x4 Facts

Times four facts also rely heavily on x2 facts. Students can be taught to “double-double” to solve x4 facts. So they need to double the other factor and then double the product. For example, let’s think about 6×4. Teach students “I see a x4 fact so I know I can double-double. Six is the opposite factor so I double-double the six. If I double six one time it’s 12 and if I double 12 it’s 24. So 6×4=24.”

6. x5 Facts

Times five facts are usually pretty simple for students to grasp and it’s a good thing because x5s are a very important benchmark number when it comes to multiplication. Skip counting by 5s is the easier way to teach 5 facts but you can also teach students to multiply by 10 and take half of the product. 😊

7. x6 Facts

Now we’re getting into the “difficult” facts. Students usually struggle the most with 6s, 7s, and 8s. Part of the reason for that is because they have to be solidified in other facts to help them. The easiest strategy to teach multiplication for sixes is to multiply by a group of 5 and add an extra group. Tell students, “let’s take the fact 6×6. If I know 5×6=30, then I can add an extra group of 6 and get 36. So 6×6=36.”Some students may also start to catch on to the fact that x6s are double that of x3s. For example, if they know 3×3=9, well 6 is double than 3 so 3×6=18, so the product 9 doubles into 18. This is a higher-level strategy, though, so I personally wouldn’t use this one unless students are solidified in other facts and strategies first.

When learning how teach multiplication, one of the easiest strategies for sixes is to multiply by a group of 5 and add an extra group.

8. x7 Facts

Ahhh, times sevens! The bane of every student’s existence when beginning to learn multiplication facts. There’s no easy way to remember x7s but teach it very similar to x6s. Students usually easily know x5 facts so we can use those to help us. Students can multiply by 5 and add two groups. This one takes some practice. The good thing about x7s is that they really only need to use this specific strategy with a few facts. With every other x7 fact, another strategy has already been taught. Let’s look at the fact, 7×7. If students know 5×7=35, then they can add two more groups of 7 and get 49, so 7×7=49.

9. x8 Facts

Times eights are similar to x7s in the fact that there just isn’t an “easy” way to teach them. They have to rely on other mastered facts. The strategy to teach multiplication for x8s is called a double-double-double. Knowing 2s is crucial here. Let’s look at the fact 8×7. If I think of the 8 as a x2 fact, I can do 2×7=14, double 14 to get 28, and double 28 to get 56. Hence, double-double-double. If this is too tricky for students, teach them to multiply by 5s and add three groups.

10. x9 Facts

The finger trick! Just kidding. I actually never learned the “finger trick” for x9s but some of my students would always know it coming in. To teach x9s, have students use x10s as a benchmark to help them. For example, if I’m working on 9×8. I can think of 10×8=80, but then I subtract a group of 8 away to get 72. What about 9×7? Think of 10×7=70 and take a group of 7 away to get 63.

11. x10 Facts

These are what students would call “easy peasy lemon squeezy.” Students essentially learn that with x10, they can just “add” a zero to the end. So 10×8=80 because it’s 8 with a 0 on the end. While they aren’t necessarily wrong, just be sure students really know that zero is there because of place value and groups of tens.

Ok, maybe this blog post was a little more long than brief but hey, it is what it is. I do want to add a *disclaimer.* Some of these fact strategies rely on addition and subtraction fluency, which should be taught in previous grades. As educators, we all know that some students come into our classrooms a touch behind. With that being said, these strategies may not work with every student in your class until they have a solid foundation of addition and subtraction. The beauty of educating is that we know how to tailor learning to each and every student. If that’s the case, and sometimes it very well is, then work on addition and subtraction fluency with those students, and then move into these multiplication strategies.

Looking for a fun and easy way to incorporate multiplication in everyday activities? Check out these multiplication resources below:

  • Properties of Multiplication - 3rd Math Task Cards - Print & Digital - 3.OA.B.5
    Properties of Multiplication – 3rd Math Task Cards – Print & Digital – 3.OA.B.5
  • Introduction to Multiplication cover for 3rd grade showing multiple worksheets available in printable and digital formats
    Introduction to Multiplication with Google Slides Distance Learning 3.OA.A.1
  • Properties of Multiplication - 3rd Grade Robot Escape Room - Digital & Print
    Properties of Multiplication – 3rd Grade Robot Escape Room – Digital & Print
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