Teach your students the concept of multiplication with this fun activity!
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When you first start teaching multiplication, do you like to jump right into those math facts?
That’s a mistake.
It’s essential that students build an understanding of the concept of multiplication prior to memorizing the facts. They need to understand how to use multiplication in real situations before they start committing facts to memory. This way they’ll be more prepared to answer real world math problems – which is the whole point of learning those math facts!
Today I’m sharing a math center that allows students to practice representing and solving multiplication problems. And it uses something that many kids love – goldfish crackers.
(If you have an allergy issue or you prefer not to use food in the classroom, no worries! Use some kind of counter instead.)
Here’s how the activity works:
- Give each student a recording sheet, 5 pictures of goldfish bowls, the task cards, and about 50 goldfish (or counters).
- Their job is to read each task card and gather the appropriate number of goldfish bowls and goldfish crackers.
- Children need to distribute the goldfish crackers according to the card.
- Finally, students count the total number of goldfish and write a multiplication equation on the recording sheet.
I had my son draw a task card and gather the correct number of goldfish bowls and fish. At first he grabbed only 8 total goldfish and began dividing them among the bowls. I pointed out that he needed 8 goldfish for each bowl.
After he collected the correct amount of goldfish for a problem, he wrote the equation. (He was really thrown off by that word equation at first. I told him it was just a way of showing that two things are equal.)
This is what it looked when when he drew the card that told him to get five goldfish bowls and put 2 goldfish in each bowl.
5 x 2 = 10
He was happy to do this quick one! 1 x 9 = 9.
- Ask questions to focus your learners on the meanings of the numbers. For example, what does the 1 represent? (one goldfish bowl) What does the 9 represent? (9 goldfish)
- Help your learners see that mutiplication has to do with groups. Another way to say “1 x 9” is “1 group of 9.”
- If desired, tell your students how many task cards they need to do – rather than doing all 12.
- Have students work in pairs and take turns writing the equations.
- If you’d like, print a large supply of the black and white goldfish bowls. Then have students draw the number of fish for each problem rather than use manipulatives.
This activity was inspired by the wonderful book, Mastering the Basic Math Facts in Multiplication and Division, by Susan O’Connell and John SanGiovanni. I highly recommend it if you want to help your students learn more than basic memorization.