Math Help: Beginning Multiplication

You'll probably start learning about multiplication in 2nd grade, and you'll need to have all of the basic multiplication facts memorized by the end of 3rd grade. It's important that you memorize your multiplication tables, but it's just as important that you understand multiplication conceptually.

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Mastering Multiplication


It's common for students to memorize the multiplication tables without actually understanding multiplication on a deeper level. This not only makes it harder to memorize the facts, but it can also lead to difficulties later on when you learn more advanced skills that are based on multiplication.

In fact, multiplication is really just a more efficient way of adding together a certain number of groups that are the same size. For example, if you have six groups of three students, and you want to find the total number of students, you could add together all of the groups, like this: 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 18. However, the more common way to represent problems like this is to multiply: 3 x 6 = 18.

When you're first learning multiplication, it can be helpful to keep in mind that multiplication represents addition. For example, 5 x 2 = 5 + 5 = 10 and 1 x 4 = 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 4. You can use this trick when you can't remember a multiplication fact, like 6 x 7. If you're stuck on that problem, you might still remember that 6 x 6 = 36, so you can just solve 36 + 6 to find out that 6 x 7 = 42.

It's also helpful to keep in mind that the commutative property applies to multiplication. This is just a fancy way of saying that you can multiply two numbers in any order and you'll still get the same answer. For example, if you know the answer to 7 x 8 is 56, then the answer to 8 x 7 is also 56.


Once you have a conceptual understanding of multiplication, it's time to buckle down and memorize all of the facts. One way to do this is to use flashcards. Make a card for each fact with the problem on the front and the answer on the back, and divide them into batches of 5-10 cards. Memorize each fact in one batch, and then move on to the next batch. Once you've memorized that one, combine it with the previous batch and review.

After you've memorized all of the facts, you'll need to keep reviewing so that they'll 'stick.' You should go through your flashcards at least once a day for a week or so. You can time how long it takes you to go through the stack, and try to beat yesterday's time each day. You can also make this into a game by competing against a friend or sibling.

Another fun way to practice your multiplication facts with a friend is to use a deck of cards. Remove all of the face cards except for the aces, which will represent ones. Shuffle the cards, draw two from the top of the stack and multiply them together. If you get the answer right, you get to keep the cards, and the player with the most cards at the end wins.

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