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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Multiplying Large Numbers: Lesson Ideas, Games, and Free Interactive Notebook Pieces

My students love multiplication. I can always tell from the huge groans they give me when I tell them we are starting a multiplication chapter. (Wait - are those not groans of happiness?)
Anyway, despite their feelings about the subject, I still try my best to keep them engaged and excited about our math lessons.

If you have students who are like mine, you may be looking for some ways to keep your students' attention during the painstaking process of practicing multiplication problems. Here are 3 easy ways to keep them participating (and maybe even having fun!). 

1. Color Code, Color Code, Color Code

In a large multiplication problem, you are essentially repeating the same process for each digit in the second number. In the example pictured above, you multiply the 432 times the 3 in the ones place. Then you multiply 432 times the 6 in the tens place.

When I begin introducing this concept, I like to use different colors to show each step. My problem on the board would look similar to this:

 For many of my more visual learners, examples like this give them a concrete visual of the connection between the ones place quotient and the tens place quotient. Each new place would get a new color.
I also will often let my students use colored pencils to copy this strategy when they are solving problems on their own as well.

(Of course, this doesn't work well for all students. Some of my faster students will start in one color and then forget to switch colors. Often this just shows me that they understand how to do the problems and don't need the extra help of the color coding.)

You can also grab a FREE set of color coded multiplication examples by clicking on any of the pictures below. These examples fit inside the folded envelope and are perfect for an interactive notebook. You could also have your students keep the envelope and examples at their desks for reference if you don't do interactive notebooks.

 2. Let Them Use Calculators

Now I should explain that I am a strict "no calculators" teacher. I firmly believe that my 5th and 6th graders need to understand how to solve math problems on their own before they are allowed to use calculators in middle school and high school.
So when I tell my students that I am going to let them use calculators, they tend to get pretty excited.

The catch is that I don't let them use a calculator to actually solve the math problem. Instead, I pair up my students. Each student then solves a multiplication problem either on paper or on a small white board. Then the students trade papers (or boards) and use the calculators to check their partner's multiplication problem. The checker can simply mark the problem wrong. However, if you want to make the exercise more challenging, ask the student who checked the problem to figure out any errors in the work. This adds another level of problem solving to the exercise.

To make this even easier for you, I would use a set of multiplication task cards to assign the problems. Just hand each pair of student two task cards and let them solve and check. When everyone has finished with their first problems, have the pairs rotate to the next desk for a new set of task cards.

3. Play a Game

Colored dice can make any math concept a little more fun, and multiplication is no exception. 

Colored dice from Amazon
 Give each student 3 or 4 dice of one color and 2 or 3 dice in another color. (If you don't have enough dice, you could have pairs or trios of students take turns using the same dice, but Amazon has sets of 100 dice for less than $20.) Each student would then roll all the dice in their hand. They would use one color to make the first number and the other color to make the second number.
Then the student would multiply the two numbers together. The second student then rolls the dice again to get two new numbers to multiply. The student with the largest number wins that round. 

You can decide how many rounds your students will play depending on how long your math class is and how much practice you feel your students need. At the end of the game, the student who has one the most rounds has won the game.

I like to play this game in pairs to keep the students more engaged all at once. The smaller your game groups, the more often each student is getting a chance to multiply.

These are just a few ways to spice up your multiplication teaching and practice. Do you have other fun ideas for practicing multiplication? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!


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