Can you teach multiplication to 7 year olds? Yes, you can but probably not everything yet. I started teaching Gab multiplication when he was six years old. How did we do it? Here are a few tips and tricks and it does not include memorizing the multiplication table.

I had no plans of teaching multiplication to a six year old. We plan on mastering addition at that time. But the incident about the clock made me think that he is ready for some basic multiplication. I am not teaching it the way I was taught in school. We did not use any multiplication table and no speed tests involved. At the same time, I am not teaching everything yet. Just the easy multiplication facts first.

Below are some tips in teaching multiplication for beginners.

Multiplication Table

1. Teach that multiplication as repeated addition. Essentially, that is what multiplication is, a repeated addition. Thus, the first thing I told Gab is to add the number 2 several times over, like 2+2+2+2+2 which is 2 x 5. He taught it was funny and likes adding numbers several times. Thus, he still multiplies that way even for big numbers. He treats multiplication as addition and it becomes less intimidating.

2. Build strong addition skills. Since multiplication is just repeated addition, building strong addition skills really helped Gab when multiplying. We don’t use a multiplication table. We don’t memorize multiplication facts. Instead, we rely on addition and subtraction to arrive at the answer.

For example, when Gab multiplies 16 x 4, he knows that 15×4 is 60 because of the clock. Thus adding another 4 or 60+4=64, will be equal to 16×4.

16 x 4 = (15 + 1) x 4 = 60 + 4 = 64

Another example is when Gab multiplies 9×6. He starts with an easy 10×6 which is 60 and subtracts 6. Thus 60-6=54.

9 x 6 = (10 – 1) x 6 = 60 – 6 = 54

This is actually using the distributive property of multiplication. It will be useful in the future when the child learns Algebra.

3. Start with the simple multiplication facts and save the hard ones for later. Make multiplication sound simple by starting with the easy ones. In our case, Gab learned x5 first because of the clock. I immediately taught x10 next which is very simple. Then x1 and x0. Finally, I taught x2 which is just adding doubles. I also taught x11 which will have an easy pattern too.

Save the hard ones for later. Our goal is to build confidence first thus we leave the more challenging multiplication facts for later. The products are bigger numbers and can be intimidating.

4. Develop Number Sense. defines number sense as a student’s “fluidity and flexibility with numbers,” (Gersten & Chard, 2001). The student has sense of what numbers mean and understands their relationship to one another.

For example, we used number sense by understanding that x6 is just the double of x3. So if we ask Gab what is 6×4, he starts with 3×4=12 and double that product as 12×2=24.

The same strategy works when using x2 to master x4 and x8. You can also use x10 to master x9.

5. Share different ways to arrive at the answer. This is really important since it shows that math is not a rigid subject wherein there is only one method to arrive at the correct answer.

For example, to answer 24×5, Gab did 12×5=60 first (again because of the clock). Then Gab will double the product as 60×2=120.

24 x 5 = (12 x 2) x 5 = (12 x 5) x 2 = 60 x 2 = 120

I also offered an alternative solution using 20×5=100 first and adding 4×5=20 next. Thus, 100+20 = 120.

24 x 5 = (20+4) x 5 = (20 x 5) + (4 x 5) = 100 + 20 = 120

But we don’t force a certain method. We let the Gab discover what works best for him.

6. Be patient. We give time for Gab to process the answer. It can sometimes take more than a minute even for simple question like 4 x 3. Since he uses repeated addition and does not memorize any multiplication facts, it takes time for Gab to arrive at the answer. We don’t expect him to give quick answers for now. What is important is to build the mental skills for multiplying.

At the same time, we allow him to struggle a little with the computation. We seldom give clues or hints to help him arrive at the answer. The struggle is part of building the skills needed to persevere in math.

7. Discuss mistakes. Telling the child that mistakes is part of learning will help them be more confident and more adventurous in learning multiplication. When Gab makes a mistake, we allow him to think again and came up with the correct answer. We often ask him how he arrives at his answer so he would be able to pinpoint where he made a mistake. It’s an “AHA!” moment for him every time he figures out his own mistakes.

8. Just a few minutes a day. Since multiplication is not a priority yet at this age, we only ask very few questions in a day. For the easy ones like x2 or x10, we can give as many as 20 a day. But for the more challenging ones, like 15 x 9, it can be just 3 in a day or even less.

9. Look for real life opportunities to use multiplication. Riding a bus and a jeep is a good way to show how multiplication works. We would ask Gab to multiply so that we will know how much we would pay for the fare if there are 2 or 3 of us riding the bus or the jeep. Find more examples in real life where multiplication is used and get the child involved with it.

10. No need to rush. In most curriculum, the concept of multiplication is being taught later in Grade 2 and teaching multiplication facts starts in Grade 3. Meaning, the child is usually around 8 or 9 years old when they first encounter multiplication. So there is really no need to teach a 7 year old multiplication yet. If the child cannot master multiplication, you can simply skip it or pick the easy ones. In our case, I’m leaving out x7 for now and we ask very few x6 and x8. But we keep on repeating x2, x5 and x10.


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