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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mastering Multiplication Facts

There's no way around it - - - fourth graders must memorize multiplication facts. If they don't, mastering 4.NBT.B.5 (multiply four-digit numbers by one-digit numbers and two-digit numbers by two-digit numbers) just isn't going to happen.

Kids are overwhelmed by the multitude of facts they need to know, and they're defeated as they fail timed tests again and again. Teachers can help!
First, determine which facts each student knows. This video on Math Playground explains how to use grids like those below. The first grid gets parents on board; the second allows teachers to determine which facts a student knows and assign the next facts or fact groups a student must learn.

After determining which facts each child needs to learn, it's time for practice. Check out Quick Flash II from Students can click on the set of facts they need to learn (e.g., their 3's) and set to work practicing them until they reach mastery. For hard copies of flash card sets, try this webpage.

As students master their facts, we move to the next step: fluency. Multitudes of games, also found on, help students with their fluency, but in my opinion, nothing beats Fact Navigator. It is the most helpful multiplication tool I have found on the Internet EVER!

This week I took my students into the computer lab to try Fact Navigator. Each student set the app for testing multiplication facts to 9 x 9. Fact Navigator generated a 36-question test. As each student finished, Fact Navigator displayed the number correct and time it took the student to finish the test. Wow!! So helpful! If a student could correctly complete 100% of the problems in two minutes or less, I deemed him ready for long multiplication and called out: "DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! ____________ has passed his multiplication facts!" If students could not pass or their times were over three minutes, they moved back to Quick Flash II to work on specific sets of facts.

During that half hour in the computer lab, I saw my students' savvy with multiplication facts increase by leaps and bounds. Using Fact Navigator and Quick Flash II as a one-two punch really knocks out those dreaded times tables!

How can teachers help their students master multiplication facts? Here's the recipe that works for me:
  1. Find out which facts a student does and does not know.
  2. Focus practice on one small set of unknown facts at a time.
  3. Once mastery is achieved, use games and timed tests to increase fluency.
P.S. If you're looking for a fun, whole-class facts game, try Math Facts Baseball!