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How to Teach Multiplication to 3rd Grade: Introducing the Concept

If you liked the article and want to find more effective small-group instruction strategies for your lessons, check out the activities and ideas provided by Happy Numbers and start a free trial (which is available only this week) right now! 

              One of the main concepts of the 3rd grade is definitely multiplication. This basic knowledge is as crucial as addition and subtraction because all future skills are built on these foundations. That's why it's so important to form a conceptual understanding rather than just to memorize facts. Students should go beyond learning math facts by heart and grasp the concept of multiplication itself, thus stimulating their own math flexibility skills. 
     
             An effective way to introduce the idea of multiplication is step by step, progressively referring to math skills students already have. It’s better to start with invoking concrete and more familiar associations, for example, learning to manipulate and add groups of objects with natural structure. Happy Numbers uses common groups of objects to introduce multiplication as repeated addition and connect it with students’ personal experience: candles in a candleholder, bananas in bunches, wheels on a bicycle, etc. 

Repeated addition flash cards  introduce multiplication
Repeated addition flash cards introduce multiplication

Example of flash cards with repeated addition
Example of flash cards with repeated addition


Introducing the concept of multiplication through repeated addition
Introducing the concept of multiplication through repeated addition

To see the full exercise, follow this link

              The next step is manipulating groups of more abstract objects. In this step, students should be able to see and understand that a certain number of objects can be collected into a certain number of groups. Then, students learn to describe these pictures in groups. For example, 3 groups of 4 objects make 12 objects. 

Multiplication as equal group
Multiplication as equal group

To see the full exercise, follow this link

              Students calculate the repeated addition sums by adding on to the previous addends, step by step, or by grouping the addends into pairs and adding. Now they see that there are two ways of showing the same fact: 4 groups of 3 make 12 or 3 + 3+ 3 + 3 = 12. With this understanding, it’s time to introduce the signs of multiplication and equation instead of words “groups” and “make” to shorten the multiplication fact.

Introducing the multiplication sign
Introducing the multiplication sign


To see the full exercise, follow this link

              It’s crucial for students to understand that multiplication is all about equal groups. That’s why Happy Numbers tries to make sure of this by providing relevant examples of flash cards where students are able to test themselves and  practice multiplication facts through visualizations.
 
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Determining correct representation of a multiplication fact
Determining correct representation of a multiplication fact
To see the full exercise, follow this link

              Now when students begin to grasp the idea of multiplication, it’s time to slowly introduce arrays or tile models. This, being a more abstract level of representation of multiplication, also visually demonstrates the commutative property and explains the principles of calculating the area of a rectangle. 

              Let’s take a look at the models below and see that the order in which tiles are arranged doesn’t change the product.

Tile models as a visual representation of multiplication’s commutative property
Tile models as a visual representation of multiplication’s commutative property

To see the full exercise, follow this link.

              When the basics of the concept are built, it’s time to go to the next level: fact fluency. Below you can find some helpful cards with multiplication charts that you might want to include in your lessons.
 
Using multiplication charts and tables to practice fact fluency
Using multiplication charts and tables to practice fact fluency
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Tables and charts to practice multiplication facts
Tables and charts to practice multiplication facts


              All these activity examples are small pieces of the Happy Numbers 3rd-grade curriculum, which contains more than 200 tasks on multiplication and division including different types of hands-on manipulatives, instructional and practicing tasks, and fluency games. Visit our website and try our PK-5 math standard-aligned curriculum for free!     

Happy Numbers multiplication exercise

How can you help your students grasp the meaning of this and other challenging mathematical concepts? We provide lots of practice tasks and manipulatives to make sure students have a conceptual understanding of math. 

Try implementing the Happy Numbers curriculum in your own lesson plans and see the results for yourself! Set up a class and start a free trial which is available only this week!

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