Conquer the Multiplication Tables 3

Minimal cost Manipulatives to illustrate Multiplication

The previous postings on learning multiplication facts talked about making the connection with the real world and the importance of using actual objects and pictures. Those that are directly related to YOUR CHILD’s interest are the best. 
When you have an elementary school child in the family, you highly likely have some brightly colored blocks, Lego’s, dice, coins, tiles, or other disjointed objects lying around the house. They are all worth their weight in gold when it comes to illustrate simple multiplication facts. How many wheels do you see on three toy cars? How many dots do you see on two dice each showing 5 dots?  Have your child count it out first and tell you the answer (use any mistake as an opportunity to improve understanding), after that you can model writing the multiplication statement on regular squared paper, using one square for each numeral and character ( x, =) arriving at the same answer!  


When your child shows to have grasped the concept using objects and pictures, you can go on to the next step on the way towards a more abstract representation.
It is now time to print or invest in graph paper with large squares and have some coins, counters, stickers, or rubber stamps ready to fit in these squares.   


  • How do you multiply 6 by 3?
  • In other words what is 3 times 6?
  • Or 3 times 6 equals what number?


1. Using Lego’s or other connecting blocks. 
You ask your child to lay out a row with 6 square Lego’s/blocks and connect them, keep it in a horizontal position. Ask her to give you one row of 6. Make another row of 6 and ask how many rows of six do you have now? Make a few more similar rows and give a few one by one to your child to hold in her hand and ask: how many times did I give you a row of six now? Etc. you get the gist. Don’t bother with the answers yet, this is about counting how many rows of six there are. Give her a few rows and ask one back: how many rows of 6 do you have left? When this is getting boring move to counting out answers: place the horizontal rows on the table underneath each other, the first block of each row touching each other and forming a column. Start with counting out two rows of 6. Write the verbal multiplication statement: 2 rows with 6 tiles equals 12 tiles total, first, before you write the numerical version of the multiplication fact next to it: 2 x 6 = 12. Do as many of these till your child can write the two statements independently. Now ask her to go back to the question: what is 3 times 6? Praise how she worked with the blocks to find it out herself !   


2. Using a paper model. 
First ask your child to fill a row of 6 squares with a marker of her choice, say she is using smiley face stickers, and cut it out. Glue them on card stock for better durability. 
This row shows the initial number: 6 and is used for the same sequence as with the Lego’s or connecting blocks described above, so you will need several of them. 
Keep them in the horizontal position. Remember these are the rows representing the number to be multiplied and the columns represent how many times the initial number is multiplied. Your child is using this to make the verbal and the numerical multiplication statement.
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Check for understanding:
  • Does your child see that multiplication is only repeated addition? So, now we know multiplication is only a big word for ‘adding several times’, it must be easy!
  • Ask your child to glue 3 rows of 6 smiley’s neatly together on a piece of paper and write the two multiplication statements on another piece of paper. Turn the paper with the smiley’s 90 degrees and ask her to write two other multiplication statements. What does she see comparing the first and second two statements? How come?