How to Teach Multiplication to 2nd Grade: Introducing the Concept

Learn to teach a strong foundation of multiplication concepts so that 2nd graders are set up for success in multiplication.

“Two times two is four!”

“Two times three is six!”

“Two times four is eight!”

You listen as a second grader recites her times tables enthusiastically. Although you want to encourage her, your reaction as a teacher is to worry. Does she even know what multiplication is?

You know that memorizing facts doesn’t equal understanding. But, you may still wonder how to teach multiplication to 2nd graders in a way that will help them understand the concept. We’ve put together a detailed guide to help you and your 2nd grade students succeed with multiplication:

Step 1: Repeated Addition

The right way to teach multiplication to second graders doesn’t start with memorization. Instead, your first goal is to help kids understand what multiplication actually does.

Multiplication is repeated addition. It’s that simple! You add groups of the same amount together. In the example below, you add 3 groups of 2 cherries.

https://happynumbers.com/demo/cards/294628?mode=preview

At this point, you don’t even need to mention the word “multiplication.”

However, it is important to use visuals and manipulatives. This helps kids truly understand the concept.

For example, to show “3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12”, you might have children draw 4 ice cream cones with 3 scoops each. Or, you can ask children to use popsicle sticks or counting bears to represent another problem, such as “5 + 5 + 5 = 15.”

Step 2: Introducing Multiplication

Slowly, you can introduce a new way to show repeated addition. Instead of writing out “3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12”, you can explain that you’re adding up 4 groups of 3. Then, have children express the problem in both ways:

3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12 and 4 x 3 = 12

Another helpful way to have kids think of multiplication is in an array. An array has columns and rows. This format provides an easy way to organize objects. Then, children can express multiplication as X rows of Y beads, as in the example below.

https://happynumbers.com/demo/cards/294631?mode=preview

At this point, it can be helpful to continue to link this idea to repeated addition. In other words, the above visual shows 2 x 4 = 8 and 4 + 4 = 8.

By continuing to use visuals and show the various ways of expressing it, children get a strong grasp of the concept.

To solidify multiplication for your 2nd graders, you can also go backward. Instead of showing children an array already formed, ask them to arrange the array into a certain number of rows or columns. For example, in the below example, children are asked to create 3 columns of 4 squares each.

https://happynumbers.com/demo/cards/294803?mode=preview

Then, children can express the problem as 3 x 4 = 12 or 4 + 4 + 4 = 12.

Step 3: Multiplication Tables and Facts

Are your 2nd graders bored of multiplication? Make it fun by switching things up! Here are some fun ideas for how to teach multiplication to 2nd grade students:

– Use Different Manipulatives: Perhaps your students are bored of Cuisenaire Rods and linking blocks. Why not use some felt to create ice cream cones to which students can add scoops of ice cream? Or cut out some rockets using felt! Take whatever theme your students enjoy and go with it to make visualizing multiplication problems fun and interesting.
– Use Technology: Kids love digital devices and working on apps. There are plenty of options that can help your students master concepts that you’ve presented to them in class. Have you tried Happy Numbers? We encourage you to check out our personalized learning app that helps kids learn and master multiplication, among other math concepts.
– Do Word Problems with Students: Get kids up and moving with this fun game. You’ll need some space to do it, so you may need to go outside. Then, ask children to form groups of 3. Then, pull a few of the groups near you. Ask the kids how many children are in those 2 groups of 3? Then, ask kids to form groups of 4. To keep it fun, ask kids to form several groups before settling on a number to create the multiplication problem.
– Use Large Objects: In this game, break your students into teams of students. Keep all of the materials at the front of the classroom. The large objects could be large teddy bears, poster-sized shapes, or even big boxes. Then, ask the groups to solve the same multiplication problem. For example “2 x 3”. The children have to go to the front of the classroom and gather their materials to show 2 groups of 3. Whichever group is done first and gets the answer correct earns a point.

In second grade, multiplication is all about gaining a deep understanding of the concept. There’s no need to push ahead toward memorizing multiplication facts if children don’t have a firm grasp of what multiplication means. With this strong understanding, children will be ready to succeed in 3rd grade!

Do you need help getting your 2nd graders ready for multiplication? The Happy Numbers App prepares students for multiplication with lessons and practice. Each child moves at their own pace. Check out our 2nd-grade curriculum to learn more!