Multiplication is confusing if you don't know the facts

December 14, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

We were doing division problems in class a few weeks ago when I gradually realized why so many children were surrounding my desk, waiting their turn to ask a question.

They understood the steps of division: divide, multiply, subtract, compare, bring down.

Yet each child seemed to slow down at the multiplication step. Some would slowly drum their fingers on my desk. Some would tap their legs. Others would use one hand to count the fingers on their other hand. Many times over.

Instead of instantly knowing that 6 x 7 = 42, they were counting to six ... seven times.

Wow. That's exhausting.

Multiplication is supposed to be a shortcut to addition, but multiplication only works if you know your multiplication facts.

So we've been working on that.

We wrote our facts. We've practiced them in timed exercises. We've played multiplication popup. (The first child to stand with the right answer after a fact is given earns a point.) We've practiced our facts in countless division problems.


My students are getting more confident of the answers every day, and I'm so pleased with how hard they've worked. This isn't easy, but I've tried to make the work fun.

It's important for children to have automatic recognition of their multiplication facts because this is something they will use throughout life.

If your child is struggling with multiplication, try some of these ideas:

· Use multiplication flash cards. You can buy these or make your own.

· Ask your child to test you using flash cards or problems written on a piece of paper. Children love to feel like they are "in charge," and this is one way that you can allow them that pleasure.

· Have your child say the multiplication times tables while doing jumping jacks. This is especially good for active children. Some children can only remember things they learn while moving.

· Sing the facts to a familiar tune. It's easier for some children to remember what they sing rather than what they say.

· If you have a sandbox, ask your child to use a stick and trace a times table in the sand. (This also works with snow.)

· Create your own worksheets. A fellow teacher recommended that I check out the SuperKids Web site at I'm so glad she did. This is a great resource for teachers. It's also convenient for parents who want to give their children some extra practice at home.

Here's how it works: After entering the site, scroll down to educational tools. Select math worksheets. Click on multiplication. Then you can select basic, advanced or horizontal facts. Under the basic category, you can enter the maximum value of numbers.

I entered 12 here because my students are learning their facts up to 12. The next step is selecting the minimum value of numbers used. Here I put 0.

The third step is optional, but I decided to use it so we could focus on one times table at a time. Right now we're working on the 6 times table, so I entered 6 here. The worksheet contained problems from 0 x 6 to 12 x 6, which was exactly what we needed.

The fourth step asks for the number of problems on the page. This number can range from 5 to 50. I selected 25.

The next button is "Make My Worksheet." With one click, and within a few seconds, a worksheet is ready to print. There's also an option to print an answer key.

It can't get much easier than that.

The best way to learn multiplication facts is to practice them over and over.

As parents, we need to do what we can to help our kids. The confidence they gain from that knowledge is well worth our efforts.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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