If you’ve ever felt confused looking at your child’s homework, struggled to explain a topic that seems easy to know but hard to teach, and dealt with the frustration of homework help, you are not alone. In fact, you’re probably part of the majority!
Helping kids with homework is a challenging task, much more so than it may seem. But more than anything, it’s both commendable and loving that you want to help. Our private school is starting up a blog series called “Homework Helper” to assist families in helping their kids at home. Today’s topic: Multiplication!
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Mastering multiplication might seem like memorizing flashcards, but it goes much deeper than that. If your child doesn’t have a solid understanding of addition, grouping, and counting, they’ll struggle with later multiplication concepts and applications. Having a good mathematical base is the only way your child will truly understand the facts and the times table. Here are some things your child should know before diving into multiplication (and if they’re not there yet, our private school has included things you can try for added practice):
- Grouping: Kids should be able to group objects into equal sets, and should recognize that if they’re trying to count out 20 blocks, it’s faster to grab several at a time.
- Extended practice: Have your child count out objects and ask them if there’s a faster way to do it, then model what you mean (“Is there a faster way to count out 30 pennies?”).
- Group counting: Similarly, your child should be able to count off by numbers: twos, fives, and tens are a good starting point, then go into threes, nines, fours, sixes, sevens, and eights (that exact order might be most beneficial).
- Extended practice: Continue practicing to count everywhere and anywhere — road trips, items at the grocery store, money, etc.
- Number order: Your child should confidently know what number comes before and after a number — ideally up to 1,000.
- Extended practice: Make number line charts and turn it into a guessing game (“I’m thinking of a number that comes after 42 but before 63.”).
- Addition: Your child’s adding skills should be basically flawless — even if it’s not perfect, they have mastered the concept.
- Extended practice: There are countless coloring sheets that are addition-focused, as a fun activity to hone in on the basics. Continuing to ask real life scenarios (“I have four apples and eight grapes. How many pieces of fruit do I have?”) are also beneficial.
When your child has mastered the above concepts, transferring their knowledge to multiplication won’t be as hard as you might think. You can reinforce some of the skills they’re learning in the classroom (feel free to ask their teacher for tips!), but here are some other strategies to try:
- Area Method: Draw a rectangle, divide it into the problem at hand to figure out how many squares are present. For example, 3 x 5 would look like a rectangle with three squares drawn on one side and five squares on the adjacent side (like a grid).
- Group Method: Draw (or use connecting blocks — Legos work too) groups of numbers to find the total. For the same 3 x 5 example, connect five blocks together, three times, or draw five dots three times. This is a bit more time-intensive, but it might help your child get started with mastering the basics.
- Money: We multiply with money all the time and don’t even realize it! Money is great for mastering the fives and tens tables — five pennies equal a nickel, ten equal a dime, and so forth. Have your child practice converting money (they might be extra motivated if they get to keep a penny or two, too!).
At some point, memorizing multiplication facts will make their lives so much easier. But rote memorization does not leave much room for expanding in mathematical knowledge and insight. Understanding fractions, division, area, and perimeter are all things that require a sound foundation. If your child is struggling with multiplication homework, try out these methods before jumping into flashcards and memorizing their times tables.
Once they’ve shown they understand how multiplication works, then you can move into memorizing facts. Practicing flashcards, having a times table chart that they get to color in and track every time they master one of their times tables are all things that can help their multiplication progress.
How do I know if they’re ready?
If your child is automatically knowing how to set up an array, sees a multiplication problem and instantly starts drawing out the problem, they most likely know how multiplication works, and are ready for memorizing facts.
But if you’re not sure they’re fully understanding this math concept, you can — first and foremost — always get advice from their teacher or check in with them. There are also tons of online games and videos that you can help your child with.
At Resurrection Christian School, we are committed to helping all children succeed, and we know that so much of a child’s success comes from home. It can be frustrating when you don’t know how to help, but hopefully, these tips have provided you with some further insight. If you have further questions, never hesitate to reach out to our private school! In the meantime, stay tuned for our next Homework Helper blog, and schedule a tour with our preschool, elementary school, middle, and high school today!