Mastering Multiplication: The Quest Begins!

We've just finished our first unit on multiplication. Our curriculum splits it into two different units, although we kinda just mesh it all together anyways. In this first chunk though, we focused mainly on knowing what multiplication, how it works, and why it works. We did lots of exploring and built many strategies to solve multiplication (and division) equations and word problems. We practiced writing and reading equations and we are well on our way!

I can say, I'm happy with our progress so far on the fundamentals, but now, my focus is more on fact fluency.

Every year, it seems to get harder to get kids to know their facts fluently. Really, the reality is- you just need to memorize them. Now that they know what multiplication is, they need to get to the answer quickly, but correctly. The word "efficient" is a buzzword in our room currently. I tell them to use the strategy that is most efficient for them- that still lets those kids who need to draw a picture to do so... if that is the strategy that can get them the correct answer as quickly as possible. Some kids though, are finding strategies like skip counting on their fingers, hand tricks, or simply just memorizing them to be the most efficient.

I had to make an interactive poster for the 9's trick because some were getting confused using their own hands... hmmmm.

I'm still allowing them to "pick their poison" but that doesn't mean I'm not trying to make those facts come a bit quicker.

Enter: Games, games, and more games

It is expected they practice their facts at home. The sad reality is very few of them do. So I'm trying to work in some time throughout our day on practicing facts and trying to hold them accountable, while helping them work towards a goal. The first step in this process is finding some low maintenance games that they can play alone or with a partner.

Our game boards have been in full swing! I have given each student a baggie with 3 dice (different numbers on them) and two counters. They keep this in their desk so when they need them, they are right there. The beauty- they make up their own rules to fit their needs. One way we've played has them pick a factor and write it down, roll the dice and multiply that number by the factor they wrote down. If they are write, they roll a different dice and that determines how far they move on the game board. To make it even more fun, they use their whiteboard markers to change up the game by adding "LT" for loose a turn, "RA" for roll again, etc. Another beauty of this way, if they are playing with a partner, the could each pick a different factor they want to work on. Another way we've played is where they just roll 2 of their dice and multiple them together, then roll the other dice to move.

We've also been using a FREE resource from Brooke over at Teachable Moments:


This is another great, easy game that students can play alone. They predict which number will win and before you know it, they are acting like they are announcing the Superbowl or Kentucky Derby! They each have a SmartPal where they slide in the game board and then just use their dice from their baggie and they are set! They choose which facts to practice. They know which ones they need to practice due to our weekly fact checks. We use the fact checks from Nancy Nutting's Strategies to Make Facts Stick resource,  which divides the facts up by the twos, fives, zeros and ones, nines, squares, threes and fours, and sixes/sevens/eights facts. This helps students know which factor to choose when practicing.

We do these assessments once a week and I check off the facts that they mastered. In order for it to be considered mastered, they have to get the entire line correct in 50 seconds or less. It is timed and we go line by line. They write their finish time down and we correct it right then. It really helps to do this because they are so excited to see if they've mastered a line. We talk about success in our fact fluency can look different each week: We might be trying to master a line; we might be trying to finish a line we didn't before (even if it takes us longer than 50 seconds- I give them 1 minute); we might be trying to get fewer "circles" which means ones they did not solve correctly or finish. When they turn in their assessment for me to double check, they share their "successes" which include all of the ones listed above, which helps those kids who may not master a line each time. What is helping to motivate them along?

They are working towards their license. Once they've mastered all 7 lines, I make them a license complete with their picture and get it laminated for them to keep and show off to their family and their 4th grade teacher to show them they know their facts. Our first license was earned (of course our laminator was out of film though so I couldn't give it to her yet) this past week and that alone motivated a lot of students to keep working towards theirs. I asked our first license holder her "secret" and I was happy to hear her say that she practiced the math flash cards I sent home with her. Hopefully the others heard that she practiced AT HOME. She's now working on her division license.

How do you improve your students' fact fluency? I'd love any other tricks to pull out to keep mine motivated!


1 comment

  1. That license is adorable, Kelli! I love your anchor charts, too. I totally agree with you- students just need to get their facts memorized!


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