How to Teach Multiplication to Grade 3 Students Part 1
Want a more effective strategy for teaching multiplication facts? Keep reading…
In this two-part series on teaching multiplication to 3rd graders we will discuss the most effective way to teach multiplication for understanding and to extend numbers beyond one digit by one digit multiplication. Teaching multiplication with fluency is a two-pronged process. In part 1, I will explore the strategies-based approach students should learn to become fluent with their basic facts. In part 2 I will share a 5-stage teaching approach, which is interwoven for students to build their facts.
Teaching multiplication to grade 3 students is a big idea in mathematics. As a former 3rd grade teacher, I know that students need understanding! I think we can all agree that multiplication is gatekeeper for students to be successful with more complex mathematics. According to, Taking Action, “It is essential that this foundation be resilient, and that requires first and foremost deep conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas, relationships, and operations. From this basic understanding, students can move gradually to meaningful learning of basic number combinations, formulas, and computations procedures.” So, let’s think differently about how we should teach these facts and how students learn them.
Over the last several years we’ve learned that learning multiplication fact through rote memorization can be harmful. The good news is that research suggests that learning the times tables through a strategies-based approach is more meaningful for our students. Let’s look at what a strategy approach looks like. Also note that careful consideration has been given to the order in which the four multiplication strategies are introduced. Note that students start learning 2’s facts which is a bit different than starting more traditionally with the 0’s and 1’s facts.
Use doubling involves doubling and repeated doubling to figure out the twos, fours, and eights facts.
Use tens involves halving a known tens fact to find the product of a fives fact.
Use a rule involves understanding that when multiplying by one, the product will be the other factor and when multiplying by zero the product will be zero.
Build down and build up involves building down from a ten facts to find a nines fact and building up from a fives fact to find a sixes fact.
Download the Use Doubling Activity that you can do with your students!
Students can master these strategies over time as they engage in the 5 distinct stages. The above activity is used in the Introduce stage of the teaching sequence. Join me next week for Part 2 of this blog when I discuss the 5 stages used to teach multiplication to 3rd grade students with success!
Huinker, D., & Bill, V. (2017). Taking Action Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices (p. 67). National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
ORIGO Education (2021). The Book of Fact Strategies Teacher Book Multiplication and Division (p. 4). ORIGO Education.