Making Multiplication Fun

I remember a contest our school had when I was in the fourth grade. The challenge was to see which person in each grade could write out the multiplication tables by a certain date, beginning with the ones and going through the twelves. Looking back, I can see I was pretty competitive even then. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. And I wrote some more. And I won the contest and a pin to wear.

The point of the contest was to help the students learn their times tables. I probably knew them before I started, but I certainly knew them by the time the contest was over. Writing them down so many times cemented them in my memory.

When my own children were learning their times tables, I tried offering my two girls a reward for filling up a notebook with the multiplication facts, similar to the way I had done it years before. The reward must not have been tempting enough, though, as neither one of them completed it. So we resorted to flashcards and worked on learning them that way.

My youngest, however, has been resistant to the flashcards, and getting him to get through them is painful to say the least. So we’ve been finding other ways to learn those multiplication facts. If your child is memorizing the times tables, here are some ideas you might want to try too:

Sing them! – Skip counting songs can help with memorization. There’s an example (5’s – 7’s) at You can find others online, or you can make up your own.

Multiplication Bingo – A fun twist to the traditional Bingo game. Create game cards with the products (multiplication answers) written in the squares. On the tiles you draw, write the multiplication question. For example, the first tile you draw might say 4 x 5. Players with the number 20 on their card can cover it with a marker.

Roll the Dice – This game works up through the 6’s. Have your child roll two dice at the same time. Then have him tell you the product of the two numbers that are showing.

Multiplication War – This is a take-off on the traditional “War” card game. Start by going through the deck and removing the face cards. Aces count as one’s. Next, divide the deck equally between players. To play, each person flips over two cards and multiplies them together. The higher number wins all of the cards. If the numbers are the same, both players lay down three cards, then they flip two more to see who “wins” the war.

Dominos – To use the dominos for multiplication memorization, simply lay them on the table face down. Take turns choosing one domino and flipping it over. The player must then multiply the number of dots he sees on the two sides of the domino. If the player gets it right, he gets to keep the domino; if not, he puts it back and waits until his next turn to try again. The player with the most dominos at the end wins.

Hop to It – We played this game when learning to read sight words, and it works great with multiplication facts too. First, write down the products in dark ink on notecards. For example, if your child is learning the 3’s, write 3 on one card, 6 on another, 9 on another, and so on. Place these all around the room on the floor in no particular order. Next, write each multiplication question on another notecard (3 x 1, 3 x 2, 3 x 3, etc.) and shuffle the cards. To play, have your child choose a product card to stand on.  Flip over one of the question cards. Your child must find the correct answer on the floor and hop to it without touching the floor or any other cards.

What’s your child’s favorite way to learn the times tables?

Photo by:  Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ

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