Monday, March 12, 2012

Giving Meaning to Multiplication

Any time someone thinks about third grade, they think about two things: cursive writing and multiplication. Now, in my opinion, cursive writings is a thing of the past. I mean other than signing your name, when do you really use it. Every paper turned in has to be typed, and soon every child will carry around a laptop or iPad with which to take notes.

Multiplication on the other hand is a fundamental skill in life. It is one math concept that I can honestly say I use every day. There are 4 of us and each of us will eat 4 chicken nuggets, therefore I need to cook 16 chicken nuggets. I workout (Ha!) to 8 different songs that are about 4 minutes in length and I am able to know that I worked out for a little over 30 minutes! There are 170 calories in a single serving of ice cream and I had 2 servings, so I know that I really blew my diet with a whopping 340 calories just for dessert. See what I mean! We use it everyday.

But to be able to use it effectively we must truly understand the meaning of multiplication. This is a concept students must thoroughly understand in order to be successful in mathematics. I teach students that multiplication can mean different things in different situations but that all of these situations revolve around 4 central elements:

Multiplication Means...
1. Groups of- 3 x 4 means 3 groups of 4
2. Rows of-3 x 4 means 3 rows of 4
3. Repeated Addition-3 x 4 means 3 times I add 4
4. Counting by- 3 x 4 means 3 times I count by 4

The fundamental tool I use when teaching this unit is a 27 slide PowerPoint presentation that thoroughly explains the meaning of multiplication to students. It provides examples of the meaning of multiplication as it is seen in groups, arrays, and repeated addition. It even shows how the answer to a multiplication problem can be found by counting by certain numbers. It is a standards based lesson that could be used in one setting or spread apart over a few days taking each meaning one day at a time. It also provides notes for students and test prep practice. It has been tried and tested in my third grade classroom. You can download a preview of it or purchase it to use in your own classroom at my TpT store. 

I also use several different activities including grouping, grouping, and more grouping of manipulatives. We use colored tiles and Geoboards to create arrays. We also create graphic organizers and individual student books to illustrate one multiplication fact explained in 4 different ways.

In order to thoroughly engage students in learning about the meaning of multiplication, I incorporate many videos in songs. You can find some of my favorite below:


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