To help kids understand multiplication, it’s important to teach them strategies for how to multiply. Teaching these 4 multiplication strategies for 3rd-graders is essential before having kids memorize facts.
Make Equal Groups
One of the first multiplication strategies for 3rd-graders we start with is making equal groups. This is so that kids can visually see why two factors multiplied equals the product.
It helps to have kids start with some type of manipulatives like yellow and red counters. You can even have them use beans or pasta as a cheap alternative.
Start by writing a multiplication fact on the screen or board.
For this example, we’ll use 3×4.
Tell the kids to make 3 groups and place 4 counters in each group. I like to do this before modeling it so I can see where everyone is at with the concept before I teach it.
After giving a couple of minutes to create their groups, discuss what they did. Ask for volunteers to share what they created.
Explain that there are 3 groups and 4 counters in each. This is the same as saying 3×4. Ask the kids to tell you the total amount of counters they used.
Their response should be 12. So 3×4=12.
This is a good time to point out that when you add numbers you find the total. It’s the same with multiplication.
When a problem says to find the total it could be addition or multiplication. This will help them start seeing the relationship between addition and multiplication.
Make an Array
The next multiplication strategy I teach is to make an array.
Just like with groups, we use counters to create an array for 3×4. So they create 3 rows with 4 counters in each row. Or you can have them do 4 rows with 3 counters in each.
When I teach arrays, I don’t worry about if they show the rows or columns first. When we get to the commutative property of multiplication, they’ll learn you can switch the factors anyways.
We discuss how making an array with 3 rows with 4 in each row, is the same as 3×4.
Something important to go over is that when you make an array, you need to make sure the counters make equal rows and columns. I like having students use a pencil to help them line it up and space it out.
After making equal groups and arrays with counters, we move on to using just numbers. However, repeated addition can be combined with making equal groups and arrays.
It’s actually a helpful strategy to introduce with making equal groups and arrays to strugglers because it helps them keep track of how many they have as they count the total.
When I teach repeated addition, I tell students that they can flip the factors if they find it easier. For example, if they are finding the product of 5 and 3, they can add 5+5+5 or 3+3+3+3+3. I show them that counting by 5’s is easier so I would add 5, three times.
Watch out for students that might not add correctly when there are a lot of numbers in the equation. The higher the factors, the more careful they need to be to make sure they are adding correctly the entire time.
Just like repeated addition, skip counting can be used in conjunction with making equal groups and arrays.
Students can label the groups as they skip count how many in each group. This helps strugglers keep track of their numbers.
For the example 4×3, I teach students that they can skip count by 4 three times or skip count by 3 four times.
4,8,12 or 3,6,9,12
At the beginning of the year, I allow my students to choose whichever strategy they like best.
However, skip counting is the strategy I want kids to eventually use before they memorize multiplication facts because it’s the quickest strategy.
Sometimes they don’t have time to draw an array for 9×8. So skip counting would be more efficient in that case.
Of course, if students are struggling and need that scaffold of making equal groups, let them. If that’s the case I tell kids to write numbers inside the circles instead of drawing the amount.
For the 3×4 example, they would draw 3 circles and write the number 4 in each. Then they would use skip counting or repeated addition to solve it.
When students have the foundation of these multiplication strategies, they’ll better understand multiplication.
When your kids are ready to practice their facts after learning these multiplication strategies for 3rd-graders, I have a free guide for how to help them. Just click the picture to sign up and I’ll send it to you!