Multiplication in an Easy Visual Way
My youngest is going into first grade and he loves math. I asked him if he wanted to learn to multiply in five minutes and he said, “Yes!” And so we started reading the Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps by Maureen Stearns which is a method of multiplication which is beautifully simple and visual. She also promises that this method takes just 5 minutes to learn! And it does too. In 5 minutes, your child will be multiplying!
It’s so simple that it’s genius. 3 x 4 = ?
You make 3 sticks for the 3 and 4 steps for the 4 like so:
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Then you count by touching each stick …
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You count like this: 1, 2, 3. Write a 3.
4, 5, 6. Write a 6.
7, 8, 9. Write a 9.
10, 11, 12. Write a 12.
3 x 4 = 12
I would also have my son skip count the steps: 3, 6, 9, 12 … so 3 x 4 = 12!!
It turns out that this method works for division also, but we are not quite there yet. It did take 5 minutes as promised to teach my son how to multiply single digit numbers. The book goes on to teach multi-digit numbers, find the missing factor, division including long division. I think the visual intuitiveness of the method works best for single digit multiplication.
There are other methods that I think work better for more the more complex math operations. For things like multi-digit multiplication, my kids learn Matrix Multiplication as taught by Every Day Math. Esa Helttula has a great iPhone/iPad app for that called Lattice Multiplication. I also really like his app for long division.
The Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps book doesn’t have actual practice sheets to do problems, so the Multiply on the Fly book is a fun way to apply the Sticks and Steps method which my son is happily working on now. It’s a fun picture book of math problems illustrated by bugs and other flying creatures. We use blank paper to translate each problem into the sticks and steps to have him solve it.
The Sticks and Steps method is a visual counting method that is great for visual learners. Another fun way to learn multiplication that can be done alongside is to use skip counting songs to learn the multiplication tables. I have the songs here. I also have free fun math games on the footer of my blog.
My kids’ favorite free multiplication games are:
Grand Prix Multiplication (race anonymous peers by completing multiplication facts. If you play just one game, this is it)
Space Race Multiplication (race anonymous peers by completing multiplication facts)
Meteor Multiplication (shoot the meteor to complete the multiplication fact game)
Tractor Multiplication (a tug of war game you play against anonymous peers)
Multiply Against the Clock (complete multiplication facts while racing the clock)
p.s. All my posts on math are here.
To view either book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.