As teachers, answering the question, “how can I help my students learn and understand multi-digit multiplication?” can be overwhelming and complex, at any stage in your career. Despite the challenge, teaching multi-digit multiplication is a vital part of every fourth grade student’s math journey and is entirely achievable, and maybe even a little enjoyable!
Here, I’ll break down my process into five easy steps that will make multi-digit multiplication easy to understand and implement.
Step 1: Master Those Multiplication Tables
First things first…multiplication facts. Yes, the dreaded times tables, but it is absolutely essential that your students are incredibly familiar with their math facts, from at least 0 to 9.
When I first started teaching fourth grade, I found multiplication facts to be SUCH a struggle and logs just did not work. I had to create my own way to hold students accountable for their math facts through weekly quizzes.
**NOTE: I am currently working on creating a fourth grade mixed multiplication fluency program, tweaked from what I use in my own classroom – stay on the lookout!
Hold my students accountable each week has given me a great insight into who is practicing their math facts nightly, instead of believing the dreaded math fact log.
Step 2: Focus on Place Value and its role
After focusing on a solid multiplication fact knowledge, I start to introduce my students to multiply numbers by multiples of tens, hundreds, and thousands. Through utilizing place value charts to understand why when you multiply 4 x 200, you can do the basic fact of 4 x 2 = 8 and add two zeroes to get 800 (psst…it’s because you’re making 4 copies of 200!)
Step 3: The Importance of Area Models
Area models are my FAVORITE “in between” strategy, prior to teaching the standard algorithm. It truly bridges the place value concepts discussed above, and sets students up for success in the beginning stages of learning the standard algorithm. And to be honest, it’s MARCH and I still have students who prefer area models over the way we all know and love.
To use this strategy effectively, students will decompose the two factors into their expanded form and use them to represent the sides of each rectangle. Students will then multiply the parts to find the area of each rectangle (by using their place value knowledge from Step #2!). To find the product of the factors, students will add the areas of each smaller rectangle in their area model.
This strategy is an incredible way for students to build a conceptual understanding prior to transitioning to the standard algorithm.
Step 4: Practice the standard Algorithm
At this stage in my teaching sequence, this is the step where my students’ parents can finally BREATHE. It’s finally a strategy that they can help their children with! One of my students even once lovingly told me that she calls it the “old fashioned way” since that’s how her mom knows how to multiply (only from the mouth of babes!)
This tried and true strategy is based off the principles from both Step #2 and Step #3. While students will begin with multiplying by place value in parts and find the sum, they will begin to utilize their multiplication facts to add at the same time they are multiplying.
Practicing the standard algorithm is crucial in upper elementary because it will enable students to access challenging math as they progress through both middle and high school.
Step 5: Reinforce Concepts with Engagement
At this point in my multiplication teacher journey, I know that my students need to sit with the strategies to just PRACTICE all they have learned with multi-digit multiplication. I like to provide my students with as many different types of practice activities to actively engage my students, while working on these important skills.
One of my students’ favorite activities to do is Secret Picture Tiles. Want to try out one for yourself? Click below to instantly download a free SAMPLE of my 2 Digit by 1 Digit Multiplication St Patrick’s Day Secret Picture Tiles.
By following these five easy steps, anyone can master teaching multi-digit multiplication in no time! Using the simple building blocks of mathematics, your students will be able to solve problems they never thought they could and it is AMAZING to witness.
Now that you understand the basic steps of introducing multi-digit multiplication to your students and have a plan in place, go ahead and try it out! Let us know in the comments how it’s going, and share this post with your teacher bestie who could use it too!