Saturday, November 12, 2022

Teaching Multiplication to 3rd Graders

If you're here reading this post - it's probably because you are a 3rd-grade teacher. #bestgradeever

Although I love the grade level, I must admit that 3rd-grade teachers are bridging the academic gap from the lower grades to the upper grades. You have SO MUCH new content to teach your kiddos through the course of the year and it can be A LOT.

Over the years, I've really taken a look at my own teaching to learn how to make math, make sense for my students. I found that "following the book" aka our school curriculum didn't work for me and my students. I found myself getting confused at times and most of all, my students weren't getting it how they were supposed to. 

I took a deep dive into the standards and am here to share some tips and tricks that I've learned along the way to help my kiddos learn these math standards. If you're interested, you can sign up for my email list geared specifically to helping 3rd-grade teachers. 

So today- let's chat about Introducing Multiplication

The way in which you go about introducing multiplication and getting your students thinking about it is critical for their later understanding and application of the concept. 

Make it Concrete

When you first introduce multiplication, you want to be sure to emphasize that multiplication is all about equal groups.
Before even jumping into the concept, talk to your students about things that most always come in groups. A fun way to do this is to allow them to brainstorm these items on chart paper and organize them by the number in each group. For example, eggs usually come in a dozen, juice or soda usually come in 6 packs, etc.
Once they understand that objects come in a group, you’ll want to ask them how they would figure out the total number of juices if someone had bought 4 juice packs from the store. 
For this, I like to give my students unifix cubes and allow them to actually represent the scenario. This is powerful because students can SEE the representation in a concrete way. 

To find out the total number of juice, students will most likely figure this out by using repeated addition or skip counting.
This is where you will make the connection that multiplication is all about equal groups of items. You cannot multiply if you do not have equal groups (groups with the same amount of objects in each group). 

The reason it’s important to emphasize this is for when it comes to word problems. If you teach your students to draw out the information they know in word problems- they can easily identify when it’s multiplication and you won’t need to rely on keywords.

 Share the PURPOSE

Being a good mathematician is all about being efficient. Ask your students how they might solve a problem if you bought 85 packs of juice. Would it be smart to use repeated addition? Obviously not- which is why we have multiplication! 

Practicing Multiplication

When your students see expressions such as 4 x 3, you want to train them to read it and think of it as 4 groups of 3. 
Training your students to read expressions in this way gives meaning behind the abstract representations. They can easily visualize how to represent this expression. 
When working on this standard, I like to throw out expressions and have my students represent it in a variety of ways: equal groups, repeated addition, an equation, array, and bar model drawing. 

This gets students to really visualize and understand the meaning behind each expression. 

You can find this organizer here 
As I'm introducing 3.OA.1, I train my kiddos to see/visualize and represent multiplication in all these ways. Having them think of the expressions as 'groups of', helps them to understand the meaning of each expression. 

I found that focusing on building understanding of what multiplication truly is, having students practice representing multiplication, and teaching them strategies to learn their multiplication facts all lead to students being able to solve word problems with ease. 

If you're interested, all of the worksheets I use to teach multiplication can be found here. 
As you begin to wind down teaching 3.OA.1, don't forget to grab these Quick Checks to use as formative assessments. They can be used as quick exit passes to assess student learning and guide instruction for the following day!
There are half-sheet quick checks along with self-grading Google Forms! 
Until next time,

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