Teaching Multiplication – do I have to?
Once a child has mastered the concepts of adding large numbers and subtracting numbers (even when they have to borrow), one is obligated to continue on and start teaching children multiplication. I’m not entirely sure why, but I am dreading it… with a passion. Maybe because math was never really my thing. I am definitely more of an english/reading fanatic (and I love to read). I almost wish my husband would teach the math side of it because as my dad used to tell me, “Erin, you’re not a very logical thinker.” Well, I guess it’s time I change that…
Best fact ever: 0 x anything = 0
We dipped our toes in the waters of multiplication on Monday, and it turns out that it wasn’t near as bad as I thought it would be. I mean, mind you, we started with multiplication of zero… Npw, don’t judge me, but I got insanely happy when he got every answer right after it was explained to him that every answer for a multiplication problem times zero was zero! I obviously did something very right there. LOL! But I guess that’s what the zero multiplication problems are for… to build our confidence (and yes, I definitely mean our… his and mine!).
Moving right along
So the next step was to teach him multiplication tables times one. Being the realist that I am, I waited until Wednesday for this. I gave us both two days to relish in the easiness of multiplying by zero and both of us enjoying the fact that he just knew those problems right and left and that multiplication was going to be easy. So for two days, we enjoyed being right every time.
Fortunately for us, multiplication problems times one were nearly as easy. Instead of saying zero for every answer, we would just repeat back the number that isn’t one. While this may not seem very intuitive for many people, when you’re not a numbers person (which I most certainly am not), this is just the most simplistic way to figure out the times one. While, I did explain the concept of having 312 cars (because he’s a vehicle enthusiast) in one group is going to leave us with 312 cars total, I don’t think the times one multiplication area is the time to harp on that.
Taking a minute for peace
Unfortunately… the times 2 multiplication tables is where we are going to have to stop and talk about what’s really going on deep down in the heart of things. And I. AM. SWEATING. BULLETS. I definitely understand what’s going on when you multiply but explaining that to a child!… I’m just not sure that’s in my wheelhouse. So the wondeful thing about homeschooling is… that is now my wheelhouse. I am the only one that’s going to sit down with him and break it down six ways from Sunday. I am the only one that is going to take the time to not just explain it to him but to make sure he understands it. On the flip side, I tell myself, I’m also going to be the only one who sees that twinkle in his eye as he starts to understand what is happening and how the pieces of this puzzle fit together. Man… I’m tellin’ ya though… when this little boy grows up and people tell him how smart he is, he better respond by saying, “My momma taught me everything I know.” (Yes, I am definitely raising momma’s boys, and I’m not even sorry. Haha… But!!! I also am teaching them how to cook and clean up after themselves!)
So, our family has a love-hate relationship with Amazon. I love it. My husbands hates it. But, I swear, they have the best homeschooling/teaching supplies one could ever ask for at the best prices (and… I mean… 2-day shipping!). On Amazon, last week (because I knew this journey was ahead of us), for less than $10, I found the Multiplication Math Wheel. Man, this thing is spiffy and isn’t just your typical multiplication chart (which we have as well). I like this math wheel because it works similarly to flash cards, but it’s different. It’s more tactile (which my son is definitely a tactile learner). He can hold it and question himself just like he could with flash cards, but instead of needing a boatload of cards and potentially losing them, I can give him one single wheel for him to learn his times two multiplication facts!
Along our journey, we also have acquired some vehicle counting blocks(remember, his passion is things with wheels, so that’s how we learn! <3). While these helped my 4 year old learn to count, they are also helping me teach my oldest multiplication.
Delving IN and SUCCEEDING!
Now, that my child thinks multiplication is easy, because 0 x anything = 0 and 1 x anything = the aforementioned number, I can slowly start introducing him to the fact that there is a deeper meaning behind multiplication. To demonstrate to him 2 x 5, we set out 5 groups of our counters with 2 counters in each group. Fortunately, we already know how to count by twos, but now he has a visual that will help him understand the WHY behind the multiplication problem. And that is half the battle. Once you get someone to understand why they are doing something and how it all relates, then it sticks and they truly learn the concept instead of just memorizing rote facts. This concept of understanding and making connections will help him to succeed, not just in our homeschool life, but also in the world beyond. And as he spins through that wheel and sees each multiplication fact, he will know that 8 groups of 2 items is a total of 16 items. Mission accomplished.
Thank you for riding on this journey with us and sharing in our day! How did your child learn multiplication? I would love to add some tips to my toolbox from your experience because multiplication only gets harder from here, and I’m sure my 4 year old will have a completely different learning style, so I will have to learn a new way to teach him. I look forward to hearing from you!!
Erin T. is a military wife, mom of two homeschooled boys, and works PRN at a local hospital. She has lived in multiple states incluing NC, VA, and KY. She enjoys writing articles about her homeschool journey and different life experiences. If you would like to email Erin directly, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.