As a second grade teacher, I have the exciting opportunity of helping students build a conceptual understanding of multiplication that will serve as a foundation for the learning that follows. Last year, I came across a phenomenal article in Teaching Children’s Mathematics (May 2015) titled, Three Steps to Mastering Multiplication Facts. The authors, Kling and Bay-Williams (co-author of the Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics series), help teachers understand the meaning and importance of fact fluency vs. memorization, the phases of basic fact fluency, and a sequence and strategies for teaching multiplication facts. In addition, games for meaningful practice are presented. Download the article here. It’s a MUST read!
I chose to teach the game, Multiplication Tetris, to my students. I taught it to students in three stages after they had developed an understanding of arrays.
This understanding began by finding arrays around the classroom. Our classroom is home to oodles of arrays, and the difference between a row and column was explored with much observation and talk. Students also came up with some great ideas for why so many things in our world are organized/arranged into arrays. Further understanding of arrays was done in small guided math groups where students were given arrays and asked to count the number of rows/columns, number of units in a row/column, and total units. In guided groups, I was able to view first-hand when students discovered patterns and how much easier it was to use repeated addition vs. counting units one-by-one to find the total units. There were students who needed additional exploration and some who quickly made a connection to multiplication, so a guided math setting worked best at this stage.
Students then learned to create their own arrays using grid papers inside of clear page protectors and dry erase markers. They were given two foam dice of different colors and were allowed to determine which die would be the number of rows depending on how they wanted to strategically place arrays on their grids.
Then it was time to play Tetris! Students worked in pairs and players took turns rolling the dice and drawing arrays. The game was over when one player was unable to fit the array rolled on his/her grid–making the other player the winner.
Students quickly learned to strategically place arrays on their grids in order to have the best chance of winning.
We then transitioned into playing the game and writing the multiplication fact on each array. An important connection was made by many–when a 2 x 8 array is turned it becomes 8 x 2, but the total number of units making up the array remain the same. At this stage of the game, I created dice specific to the foundational facts students need to explore at the second grade level. I wrote two 2s, 5s, and 10s on one die. It was astonishing the number of times a pair came to me to tell me that I had two 2s, 5s, or 10s on the die, as if I had made an error. This lead to a wonderful discussion about why they thought I put two of each number on the die–and why those numbers. A student so eloquently said, “We know how to double and count by five and ten. It’s easy!” I went on to tell them how helpful knowing these patterns/facts will be to figuring out other facts.
Finally, students transitioned into writing the fact and product on each array.
Multiplication Tetris can easily be differentiated by customizing dice to students’ needs, and it can be played with a whole class, small group, or in pairs. It can also be sent with students for at-home practice, as dice can be made inexpensively with foam cubes from Dollar Tree. Feel free to download some grid paper!
I hope you have found something useful today!
All the best–