Building Multiplication Fact Fluency
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The biggest complaint I hear from 4th and 5th grade teacher is “They don’t know their facttsssss!!!” I know it can be quite a challenge to teach students the skills they need to know in 4th and 5th grade (multi-digit multiplication, long division, etc.) when they don’t know their multiplication facts. Buuuuuut I’ve also taught 3rd grade, and it’s a lot to learn in one year! So, I get it! Here are some ways to build in quick fact-fluency practice that you can use as whole group warmups or at workstations.
There are tons of multiplication songs out there if you just do a quick search on Google or Teachers Pay Teachers, but my absolute favorite are from A Latte Learning in Elementary! They are written to popular songs that kids know and love! She also provides a video example to go with each one which is super helpful! I LOVE to use these during transition times (cleaning up from stations, lining up for lunch). Such a quick way to get students skip counting.
Reflex Math is a way for students to practice math facts through games. This is one of my favorite programs to use during math stations. It is tailored to students needs and moves at their pace. Plus, they get to earn awesome prizes to customize their avatar and treehouse. It is super simple to get a teacher grant for Reflex on their website!
Fluency does not always equal memorization and it definitely does not equal speed. Students need strategies for when they don’t have a fact memorized. Number talks are a great way for students to build these strategies and strengthen their numeracy skills. If a student doesn’t know 8×6, they can use 4×6 + 4×6! Or how to half and double like in the problem 12×3. We can change it to 6×6 (half of 12 being 6 and 3 doubled being 6) and still get the same answer. Number talks build on students ability to be flexible with numbers and provides strategies for solving difficult problems.
One of my students’ favorite games to play is mystery factor (I don’t know the actual name, but this is what we call it!). Two students stand back-to-back with whiteboards and write any single digit number. The two students then show their board to a third student (without showing each other). The third student says the product of the two numbers. The students with whiteboard then have to guess what number the other student has written. It is a great way to practice fact families and reinforce that division and multiplication are opposites.
This can also be done using playing cards. Partner A places a card on their forehead without looking. Partner B flips over another card on the ground where partner A can see. Partner B gives partner A the product of the two cards and partner A has to figure out what number they are holding on their forehead. This is another game to add into stations or play when you need to fill 5 minutes of time in class.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but students who do not know their facts, need some sort of support so they can still access grade level content! I’m not saying give all students a pre-made multiplication chart but show them how to efficiently make their own multiplication chart! Once we get into mulit-digit multiplication and division, students in my classroom make a new multiplication chart each week to use while we practice these grade level skills. And believe it or not, by doing this over time they get 10X better at knowing their facts! We start off with lots of finger counting or singing the multiplication songs we’ve learned, but pretty soon it becomes second nature to skip count by 6s, 7s, 8s, etc.
One more great game students love is race around wheels. This can be played as a whole group game or independently at a station. To play as a whole group, start by drawing a large circle on the whiteboard (or more than one large circle depending on how many teams you want to have). List numbers on the inside of the circle like a clock (1-12). Once students get better at this and their facts, I will mix the numbers up so they aren’t in order. In the center of the wheel write what you want students to multiply by.
Students then take turns “racing” to the board and fill in one multiple at a time. Whoever completes the wheel first wins! You can also make this a division/fact family game by placing the product on the outside of the wheel and having students write the missing factors on the inner part of the wheel.
I’ve made a similar format that students can use independently at stations. Click here for a free sample! They simply choose a wheel and then write with expo marker in a dry erase sleeve. I usually provide timers as well if students want to time themselves! You can find the full set of multiplication race around wheels here.
We all know we can’t completely stop our grade-level instruction simply because students are struggling with their multiplication facts. These quick, easy activities are a great way to build in that fluency practice without having to put your instruction on hold!