Understanding how multiplication works is important, but being able to quickly recall multiplication facts is also important. Being able to answer quickly, questions like 7 ✕ 6 or 4 ✕ 12 is part of math fluency. It helps with mental math and figuring the answers to more complex questions. To this end, students need to know their multiplication tables or times tables.
If this immediately makes you think of flashcards and repeated drilling, hold on. There are other, more interesting ways to help students learn their multiplication tables.
7 fun ways to teach multiplication tables
Work on memorization will be most effective if students understand the concepts of multiplication already. Once you’ve introduced the concept and students are working on making multiplication of numbers 1 through 12 faster and more automatic, that’s the time for these multiplication tables activities.
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Start with easy wins
Explain to students that 1 times any number is the number itself. So 1 ✕ 1 = 1, 1 ✕ 2 = 2, 1 ✕ 3 = 3 and so on. That makes it easy for kids to master their 1s part of the times tables.
Since many students learn their doubles facts before actually learning multiplication, they’ve already learned their 2s tables. Show them that 4 + 4 is the same as 2 ✕ 4, and both equal 8.
If students are able to skip count by any number, they are on their way to mastering more parts of the times tables. Fives are usually pretty easy for students for this reason.
Show students that any number multiplied by 10 is that number with a zero at the end. So 3 ✕ 10 = 30 and 12 ✕ 10 = 120.
While working consecutively through the chart (learning first the 1s and then the 2s and then the 3s …) may seem logical, sometimes helping students see what they already know or can master easily builds momentum for some of the other numbers.
Look at a multiplication chart daily
Have students create their own multiplication chart. This isn’t a test where students have to fill in the answers without looking. Remember, this is about practice. Students can say the problems aloud as they fill in the answers on their charts, or you can walk the class or a group through finding the answers as they create the chart. You could also use a preprinted chart for this activity.
Have students place their chart where they will see it every day. It could be on their desk at school, on the front of their homework folder, on the case of their tablet, on the wall or mirror where they brush their teeth, or laminated as a placemat. Remind them to look daily. In addition have a large chart in the classroom that they see regularly.
Look for patterns in the multiplication chart
Spend some time as a class looking at the multiplication chart encouraging students to find patterns. Things they might notice include:
- Some columns/rows are always even, while some alternate between even and odd
- The 5 column/row counts up in 5s, (alternates 5 and 0 as the last number)
- That the 12s end in a pattern of 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, which repeats
- The column and row for a particular number are the same
Students may well notice other patterns. Even if the patterns they notice don’t help them remember multiplication facts, spending time with the chart can help create more familiarity.
Create multiplication flowers
Each flower has a circle center and a double row of 12 petals. Students follow these steps to create the multiplication flowers:
- Write the primary factor in the circle. So if you are working on the 3s table, write 3 in the center.
- On the smaller, inner petal, write the secondary factors (each number from 1–12).
- On the larger, outer petal, write the product of the center number and the inner petal number.
You can create separate flowers for each number. You could display them in your classroom as your multiplication garden or a multiplication bouquet.
Multiplication tables dice game
Students work in pairs for this game. Each pair needs two dice, a multiplication table up to 6, and two different colored highlighters or markers.
Students take turns rolling the dice and multiplying the numbers quickly in their heads. They say the answer, and if they get it right, mark off the number on the chart. If they get it wrong the other player can “steal” the space on the chart by giving the right number.
Alternately, students can roll the dice and see who can say the answer more quickly.
If you have a 12-sided die, students can work with a full times table. If you don’t have a 12-sided die, students can use 4 dice to get some of the larger numbers. Roll two dice together and add them to get one factor. (For example, one student rolls two dice and gets 2 and 5, so 7 is a factor. The other student rolls one die, and gets 6, so 6 is the other factor. Students have to multiply 6 and 7.)
Multiplication tables war
This card game for two players helps students practice multiplying quickly, as the first person to say the product wins the cards. You’ll need a deck of playing cards with the face cards removed. (This game provides practice through 10s. To practice multiplication by 11 and 12, include the jacks and queens. The jacks represent 11 and queens represent 12. However, I recommend playing without them until your students get used to the game.) An ace represents one.
Shuffle the cards and divide them evenly between the two players. Each player holds their cards in a pile, front down. At the same time, they flip over the top card. The first person to say the correct product of the two numbers wins both cards. If players tie in saying the correct product, each player keeps their card.
Play continues until one player has all the cards or until a designated time is up.
Make multiplication tables booklets
These booklets provide practice in the making and can be used repeatedly for review. The booklets are not hard to make, but students may find it easier to understand if you demonstrate the first few steps.
You’ll need a strip of paper 60 cm by 5 cm (about 24 in by 2 in) for each student. Then follow these steps:
- Fold over a rectangle about 4 cm (1.5 in) wide at the left side of the strip. Continue to fold the strip of paper over on itself for the length of the strip. Cut off any left over paper.
- Choose the multiplier for the booklet. We’ll use 6 for this example. Write: Tables Booklet x 6 on the front of the booklet.
- Turn back the front page of the booklet. On the left side, write 1 x 6. On the right side, make a pattern of dots for the answer (6 dots). Then write the number 6 in the top right hand corner.
- Open booklet one more page. Write 2 x 6 on the left side, make another pattern of 6 dots on the right and write the number 12 in the top right hand corner. (Both the original 6 and the new 6 dots will show, making 12.)
- Continue to open up the strip of paper, each time add one more multiple of 6, until the booklet is completed.
- Get your students to use the booklets to quiz each other on their times facts.
Times tables booklets are just one of the many activities in the Bumper Book of Fun Math Games and Activities.
This go-to resource has over 130 pages of games and activities to make teaching math easier on you while keeping learning fun. You also get:
- Place value cards
- Hundreds chart puzzles
- Flowchart sums
- Calculator games
- Times tables booklets
- Card turnover game
- Dice games
- Counting on strategy
- Near doubles strategy
- Compatible numbers strategy
- Partitioning strategy
- Estimating strategy
- Exploring and classifying shapes
- Transformation puzzles
- Shapes that tessellate
- 2D shape dominoes
- Create a mystic rose
- Calendar ideas
- Teaching elapsed time
- Time task cards
- Measurement with silhouettes
- Mini length activities
- The area stays the same
- Area task cards
- Exploring chance
- Chance picture cards
- Sorting data with Venn diagrams
- Math games links
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