Fun Ways to Teach Multiplication to 3rd Graders

Learn the best ways to teach multiplication to 3rd graders so that they achieve deep understanding.

3rd grade is famously the year during which children are supposed to master multiplication! But, don’t get out your multiplication charts yet. There is a lot of groundwork to lay to make sure students will have a strong understanding of the concept.

So, how can you teach multiplication to 3rd graders?

How to Teach Multiplication to 3rd Grade: Concepts to Teach

In many cases, students bring a strong background in multiplication from second grade. In any case, it’s important to review some of the basic concepts to make sure all students are ready to dive deep into multiplication.

Here are some concepts you can’t miss in your 3rd-grade multiplication unit:

1. What Is Multiplication? Students should know exactly what multiplication means. So, review the idea that multiplication is repeated addition. In other words, several groups of equal amounts are added, such as in this example:

2. Move from Concrete to Abstract When first introducing multiplication, provide plenty of manipulatives for children to work with. This will help children gain a strong grasp of the concept. Then, slowly, you can move toward visual representation. Finally, students will be ready to work only with numbers.

It’s also helpful to start with real-world situations. For example:

Julie has 4 cartons of eggs. Each carton has 3 eggs. How many eggs are there?

These real-world problems are easier for kids to represent using manipulatives or drawings because each detail is spelled out. They are much easier to follow when compared to abstract multiplication problems, such as 4 x 3.

Eventually, when kids are comfortable with real-world problems, make the connection to multiplication. Using the example above, you can begin explaining like this “I have 4 groups of eggs. Each group has 3 eggs. That’s like 4 x 3. I have 3 eggs, four times. It’s multiplication!”

You can encourage children to express each problem as a repeated addition and multiplication problem, like this:

3. Use Arrays One helpful way to represent problems is by using arrays. These are organizational tools that use columns and rows. Using arrays, children can express multiplication problems. Students can do it on a grid, or simply on their desk using beads, blocks, bottle caps, paper clips, or other objects.

PIC “Build a rectangle with 3 columns of 4 squares” demo cards

For example, in the above problem, a student must organize the squares on the right into an array of 3 columns of 4 squares each.

4. Skip Counting Another way to think of multiplication is with skip counting. If you count by 5s, you say the 5s time table. Students can explore skip counting by using a number line. However, there are many ways to explore skip counting, including using arrays and manipulatives, such as in the example below:

5. Multiplication Facts Now that students have practiced lots of concrete multiplication using manipulatives and visual representations, it’s time to learn multiplication facts. Memorizing multiplication facts can boost kids’ abilities to perform mental math. Plus, multiplication facts later help students understand division, fractions, and rations. Knowing multiplication facts can also help children identify patterns.

Children can begin memorizing easier multiplication tables such as 1-3. Some teachers choose to teach times tables in another order such as: 1, 2, 5.

In any case, it’s important to work on memorizing these facts slowly. Don’t rush through it! Give kids time to connect what they’ve learned about the concept of multiplication to the facts they memorize. Slowly, add more times tables to your student’s multiplication goals. Use a variety of games and strategies to work on learning multiplication facts.

6. Explore More Difficult Multiplication Once you get up to the multiplication of 10, remember to link back to the idea of 10s. For example, check out this problem:

In the above case, the answer would be 6 tens, or 60. Another way to write the problem would be 2 x 30. However, children should easily understand the problem either way. Sometimes, just removing the “0” from the 30 and calling this number “3 tens” keeps the problem from being too intimidating. Also, reinforcing the concept of tens is important so that children understand the decimal system. With a strong understanding of this system, children can manipulate numbers much more quickly.

7. Solve for Area Once students have memorized their multiplication facts, you can begin exploring other related topics such as solving for area.

As you’ll see in the above problem, children should quickly be able to relate area to the arrays they’ve already worked with.

In third grade, these are the main concepts to cover as related to multiplication. However, remember that division should also be taught alongside multiplication. This helps children understand that all multiplication problems can also be turned into division. For example: 3 x 5 = 15. So, naturally, 15 ÷ 3 = 5 and 15 ÷ 5 = 3.

Fun Ways to Teach Multiplication to 3rd Graders:

Is your class whining that multiplication is boring? Bring life and laughter back intor your classroom with some of these techniques and strategies that help keep multiplication interesting:

– Relate it to Real Life: Word problems are great because they help children imagine how the math concepts they’re learning in the classroom will serve them in real life. You might put a daily word problem on the board or actually set one up with real objects so that children stay interested. For example, you could bring in a few bags, each with the same amount of cookies.
Ask children to use multiplication to figure out how many cookies there are total! Then, of course, let them have a cookie. Or, do the same thing, but with erasers, pencils, or even stickers.
– Challenge Children to Write Their Own Multiplication Problems: Turn your students into teachers and ask them to think up their own multiplication problems. Once children have written out their problems (and you’ve reviewed them), have children switch problems with a partner. Then, students can solve each other’s problems.
– Use Manipulatives: Fun, new manipulatives can make multiplication exciting! Try creating new or different items for children to work with. For example, using felt, you could cut out little ponds and ducks. Then, children could multiply groups of ducks in ponds. Or, you can create manipulatives that relate to your student’s interests. If your class loves Pokémon or Minecraft, go with one of those themes.
– Use Charts to Show Their Progress: Invite children to track their progress in learning their times tables with a sticker chart. This can be a great motivator for some students. If you don’t want your students to compete too much, try individual charts instead of a class chart.
– Challenge Students to Say Their 0-9 Times Tables in Under 2 minutes: Get a great stack of flashcards and challenge children to say their facts fast! Once everyone in the class has achieved the goal of saying their times tables in under 2 minutes, hold a class multiplication party!

How to Teach Multiplication to Struggling Students:

Some students struggle with multiplication! It can be a lot to take in. With these students, it’s best to spend more time doing concrete multiplication work. In other words, these students may need to use manipulatives a bit longer. Using word problems that explicitly state how many groups and how many items in each groups is best. For example:

There were 5 baskets of apples. Each basket had 3 apples in it.

Then, slowly show students how to write these word problems as multiplication sentences, 5 x 3 = 15, in this case. Eventually, move students to only drawing pictures or using visual representations of the word problems. Then, have students work with only numbers (not word problems) and the manipulatives or visual representations. Finally, remove visual supports and work only with numbers. The trick is to spend enough time at each step in the process. Don’t move to the next step until the student has truly mastered the current step. If necessary, you can always go back a step for more practice!

How to Teach Multiplication Facts:

Multiplication facts can be useful. However, these facts are only useful if students understand exactly what multiplication does. So, focus on understanding the concept before having kids memorize their tables.

Then, you can use some of these fun strategies to practice multiplication facts:

– Bottle Top Game: In this game, you write multiplication problems on the inside of a bottle cap. Write the answer on the back. Then, invite children to play in a small group. The bottle caps should all be face up on the table. Children take turns taking a cap. If they say the correct answer, they get to keep the cap. Whoever gets the most caps wins!
– Worksheets: Worksheets aren’t always glamorous, but they are a good way to evaluate whether or not children know their multiplication facts. Make it a bit more fun by including a secret code that they can solve once they’ve answered all of the problems.
– Around the World: This is a fun class game. Using flashcards, children compete against each other to see who can say the multiplication facts the fastest. One student starts standing behind another student’s chair. The teacher shows them a flashcard. Whoever answers correctly first, wins. The winner continues and stands behind the next student’s chair.

Multiplication is an important concept to master in 3rd grade! We hope you and your students enjoy every minute you spend mastering multiplication.

Could you use some support? Happy Numbers includes an extensive amount of multiplication in our 3rd-grade curriculum. Students move at their own pace through each concept so that they understand multiplication and master their facts. Check out our 3rd-grade curriculum now!