In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Multiplication to the Rescue

on January 14, 2012

I teach in an area of high-stakes testing, where, once per year, students in grades 3-8 sit down for a two part, four hour math test. This test is divided into two parts, calculators and no calculators. For the test, each student gets a pencil, blank paper, and grid paper. Exciting, huh? I am not a fan of this testing method, and I have spoken out against it in many ways. But, I also am not one who will “refuse” to teach my students in a way that doesn’t prepare them for this specific type of testing and strategies for being successful with it. Many would not agree, but I don’t want them to be the ones that suffer any more than they do already. So, today I share my multiplication grid trick.

Starting with my third graders, I teach them to create this multiplication grid on their own graph paper in the first five minutes of the timed test. Many love it because they are convinced that they cannot multiply and this lets them “skip count.”


  1. It gets them focused on the math.
  2. It keeps them from having to draw circles and tallies for every multiplication problem they encounter.
  3. They can use this one chart to solve problems with multiplication, division and many fraction operations (like equivalents and simplifying).


  1. This is something can practice ahead of time. Not only does creating it for the test help them in the actual test, the act of creating the chart helps them learn the facts originally. This is also something predictable for them that they feel that they can control. The confidence this brings is so valuable.
  2. Time and careless errors can be reduced when students don’t have to re-solve the same fact problems over and over.
  3. See the diagrams below for more tips.

CORRECTION to picture: it should say, to simplify the fraction, slide your fingers to the left. I will fix the graphic ASAP.

This is only the beginning of what can be done with a self-constructed tool!


4 responses to “Multiplication to the Rescue

  1. Carol says:

    This is a great idea! I’m a fourth grade teacher in a high stakes testing area. Do you have any tips for how you teach them to create the chart that quickly. Our kids don’t get graph paper and I am trying to think how they can QUICKLY draw a grid so they could create the grid. Also how I could get them to where they could write the multiples super quickly.

    • Kelly Hines says:

      We practice making the charts once per week with the goal of improving speed while maintaining accuracy. I use School House Rock and other songs to help teach the multiples quickly. As far as the paper goes, I am not sure. It is too many to fold. I have the feeling that, with practice, the students would develop their own tricks. I would probably start with graph paper though!

  2. cathy says:

    I love this simple idea,guess what my kids are doing tomorrow ?

  3. Ruth says:

    I agree with Cathy!. i will begin tomorrow, and I will spread the word. Our students need something to help them gain confidence in what they really know. Kelly, thank you so much for this excellent tip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: