How to Teach 4th Grade Multiplication: Complex Concepts

How to Teach 4th Grade Multiplication: Complex Concepts

Learn how to teach multiplication to 4th graders so that they understand it on a deep level.

The classroom is busy. However, out of the corner of your eye, you notice one of your students has given up. Head down on the desk and tears in her eyes, your student is stuck on a multi-digit multiplication problem.

By the time students reach 4th grade, teaching multiplication is no longer about understanding the concept or memorizing facts, as in 3rd grade. Teaching multiplication in 4th grade involves more complex concepts and problems.

However, it’s far from impossible! With the best strategies for teaching multiplication, you can help your 4th graders succeed and excel, even with the hardest concepts!

Here’s what you need to know about multiplication in 4th grade:

Teaching Multiplication in 4th Grade: Strategies to Know
Wondering how to solidify your students’ knowledge when teaching multiplication? Here are some strategies to use in 4th grade to make sure your students aren’t only proficient at multiplying, but they also know exactly what it means to multiply.


1. Concrete Materials: In the early years of elementary school, we’re used to cute pictures and fun manipulatives. By 4th grade, many students and teachers feel that they’re too “grown-up” to use math manipulatives around. But, it’s simply not true! To engage students, get out counting bears, and even playdough. Not only will they have fun, but using these materials will also help children understand 4th-grade multiplication.

You can use counting bears, with each color representing a different place value. Then, use a laminated place values chart that students can use with the bears.

You can also use decimal system manipulatives featuring one thousand cubes, one hundred squares, ten bars, and units to help reinforce the concept of place values.

When working with fractions, cut felt circles into sections and label them 1/2, 1/3, 1/4th, etc. This way children can also represent multiplication problems with concrete fraction pieces. Children can also make their own pieces using playdough.

2. Visual Representations: Pictures and drawings are another way to help children understand math concepts. Try having children represent problems with drawings. Or, provide a visual alongside multiplication problems to help children in their problem-solving.

3. Real Life Problems: Try to relate multiplication problems to real life whenever possible. For example, how many students are in the 3rd grade at our school? Each class has 23 students and there are 4 classrooms. Or, how many pieces of pizza are there in 12 pizzas? Each pizza has 10 slices. These problems help children make math relevant. You can also challenge students to think of their own real life problems.

4. Boost Math Mindset: By 4th grade, some children might bring some baggage to math class with them. It’s important to teach children positive and constructive self-talk. For example, “I got this problem wrong, but I got 3 others right.” Or, “Failure helps me learn.” Or, “mistakes help us become better mathematicians.” Spend some time on this and ask your students to help come up with their own mantras and positive self-talk. This will help kids keep a positive growth mindset, which is essential for success!

Teaching multiplication isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort! Remember, even if your students have to use manipulatives and visual representations for a long time, they’re building a strong foundation. Then, when they do more abstract math work, it will make more sense to them.

Now, we’ll go through an overview of multiplication concepts to cover in 4th grade.

4th Grade Multiplication Concepts to Teach

In 4th grade, kids get into the real meat of multiplication. They work to solve more complex problems involving place value, a strong understanding of math methods, and problem-solving skills.

Here’s an overview of what 4th-grade multiplication should cover:

– Multiplying by 10, 100, and 1,000

In 4th grade, children begin working with larger numbers. Working with place values becomes an important theme as children learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers up to 4 digits in size.

Before performing operations with these larger numbers, children should have a strong foundation in place value. Many teachers have children break numbers down into a place value chart to help reinforce the true value of each of the numerals.

As you can see in the examples below, Happy Numbers uses a place valued number chart to help children multiply by 10s, 100s, and 1000s. This way, children see the concrete consequences of multiplying a number.

– Multiplication with Multi-digit Numbers
Once children have mastered multiplying by 10, 100, or 1000, children can begin working on multiplying with any multi-digit numbers. As you can see in the example below, it’s best to start off simply.

First, offer children problems that don’t involve regrouping and which can be represented visually or with manipulatives easily.



Then, you can walk the children through problems that involve regrouping. Notice how in the example below, there are more than 10 units in the ones column. Next, children will need to move 10 ones into the 10s column as 1 ten.

Also, notice how when solving for partial products, it’s clarified that when multiplying by the 2 in the 10s column, this is actually 20. This way, children understand the problem more fully than if they just solved for “4 x 2” and put the 8 in the tens column.

Learning the Standard Algorithm
Once children have mastered solving multi-digit problems using visual representations, it’s worthwhile to have them learn the standard algorithm. This is how many teachers were taught to do multiplication when they were in school! The method is useful because it’s quick and easy to do. However, students should only use the standard algorithm for solving multiplication problems when they understand regrouping and place value very well.

Strategies for Multiplying
Do you ever wish you could solve multiplication problems more quickly? You probably can! In some cases, you can break down numbers ending in 0 and use the associative property to then multiply by ten. In other words, 20 is the same as 2 x 10. So, you can represent it this way, as in the problem, as below.

Put it All Together
Finally, students can learn to use the associative property as well as the standard algorithm to make it even easier to manipulate numbers. Using these strategies, many students will be able to do complicated multiplication problems in their head!

See an example below showing how to break down a problem using the associative strategy and the standard algorithm.

– Solving for Area of a Rectangle
Another skill children can practice in 4th grade is solving for area of rectangles. However, in 4th grade, children need to be able to choose the correct procedure. For example, you might switch between solving for perimeter and area so that students practice identifying when to use addition and when to use multiplication.

– Multiplying Fractions by Whole Numbers
Finally, after having studied fractions and multiplication with whole numbers, students can practice multiplying fractions by whole numbers. As you can see in the example below, students need to have a strong understanding of what the numerator and denominator mean. Then, students can perform slightly more complex multiplication such as 2/8 x 3.

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