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3 Ideas for Teaching Multi-Digit Multiplication

Here are 3 FAST ideas for teaching multi-digit multiplication. These interventions are easy and quick for busy teachers.

The multi-digit multiplication struggle

Does this sound familiar?

You’ve been teaching 2-digit multiplication for a week now, and your students just don’t get it.

You’ve tried all the usual things like giving students a multiplication chart, trying timed tests to teach facts, and offering incentives. I’m sure you’ve tried really hard. And your students probably tried pretty hard, too.

But they still don’t get it.

how to teach multi-digit multiplication when nothing is working
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You’re not alone. And it’s not your fault.

Many students aren’t developmentally ready for the multiple steps of the traditional algorithm. Likewise, many students aren’t fluent in basic multiplication facts.

But you do have to deal with it.

3 FAST Intervention ideas to try

Use these 3 FAST ideas for teaching multi-digit multiplication. They’ve stood the test of time and are worth the time and effort.

1. Help students keep their work neat.

Legible, lined-up numbers are crucial to success in math. Students simply must have legible handwriting and good alignment to keep numbers in columns. 

The following few tips deal with keeping their numbers and columns lined up.

First, encourage students to write with nice, sharp pencils to keep their handwriting small and neat. Dull pencils smear and the writing is fatter, taking up more space.

Another tip to help with alignment is to use math graphic organizers. They’re great for keeping numbers and columns aligned.

You can see from the image below how the organizer keeps everything neatly lined up. Aligned numbers and columns are vital as students work and learn. Spacing is also crucial; these organizers allow students room to work without crowding their numbers.

2-digit multiplication organizer for teaching multi-digit multiplication
Click on the image to learn more.

You should try graph paper or grid paper if your students don’t require much support or are ready to scaffold toward independence. Graph paper has helped students succeed in math for decades and still works today. The grids easily keep numbers, columns, and rows neat and tidy.

If you don’t have time to make your own, these sets are prepared and ready immediately for class – just print and go! Perfect for busy teachers with students who require lots of practice and repetition.

teaching multi-digit multiplication using graph paper for neatness
Click the image to check out the complete set

Notebook paper turned sideways provides lines for students to keep their work neat. This strategy is cheap and SO EASY!

NOTE: Some students may struggle to write their numbers small enough to fit neatly between the lines.

But because it’s free, it’s definitely worth a try!

notebook paper turned sideways provides lines for students
Instant lined paper for neatness

If you aren’t sure which sets are suitable for your students, try one of each – FREE! Click the image below to grab a FREE set to try!

Click to visit Teachers Pay Teachers.

CLICK HERE to read more about using graph paper and multiplication organizers with your students!

2. Let’s work on multiplication fact fluency.

I believe in using a wide variety of methods to teach fact fluency – and my favorite activities are games.

cover for the Beat the Clock multiplication game

The game above is perfect for students who are learning multiplication facts for the first time or who need intense study of basic multiplication facts. 

Students simply start the timer and place the answer cards on top of the corresponding fact. The top portion of the Practice Mat lists the facts in order. The bottom half shows the facts all mixed up.

*The game was purposely designed to allow students to “cheat” by looking at the top portion. It provides confidence as their time improves, and students soon learn to solve problems without relying on the top part.

Other options for games can be as simple as using flashcards with a board game or tic-tac-toe. I suggest matching student partners with similar fluency levels to avoid upset feelings.

Even simple games can be used for fact practice.

You can allow partners to use a multiplication chart to check each other’s answers.

Games motivate students to solve math problems

Online games and learning programs also work well for some students. Xtramath.org is a dependable, worthwhile program that I’ve used for years. Check out this blog post: Xtramath.org – an excellent FREE Program for Your Math Class!

Using timed tests is still a popular way to teach and motivate students to learn their facts. If you’re looking for a basic set of timed multiplication tests, check out this versatile set.

Even if you don’t want to put a time limit on students, it’s still great practice.

multiplication timed tests cover
3 different quiz formats

3. Provide references – big and small.

As students solve multi-digit multiplication problems, they often need reminders and visual cues because so many steps are required to solve them.

Anchor charts and posters serve as visual resources and references that help students answer many questions for themselves.

reference chart for students for teaching multi-digit multiplication
Click the image to visit Teachers Pay Teachers.

Reference posters and anchor charts (like the one above) can teach students to rely on themselves to solve problems and answer questions. This promotes independence and confidence. Plus, the teacher has more time to support struggling students rather than answering the same questions over and over.

2-digit multiplication anchor chart reference poster for teaching multi-digit multiplication
I use this frequently for review of 2-digit multiplication

I use this 2-digit multiplication anchor chart (above) to review 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication frequently. It follows the same visual cues as the multiplication organizers. It’s perfect for teachers who need to know how to teach multi-digit multiplication.

And it’s reusable!

Notice the sticky notes. Change them out for different numbers each day for frequent practice! You can make the problems as basic or challenging as your class needs.

Use Posters and anchor charts like this daily or weekly for beginners, special education students, or all students who benefit from a frequent review.

Quick directions for teaching multiplication

A few last words . . .

When teaching multi-digit multiplication, what works for some students might not work for others. Stay open-minded and flexible about trying new ideas and strategies. Many students need repetition and to see the concepts presented in various ways several times before it clicks with them.

More Articles about Multi-Digit Multiplication:

2-Digit Multiplication Worksheets: Differentiated – Here’s a visual method for teaching 2-digit multiplication using differentiated visual cues to guide students’ learning for success.

2-Digit Multiplication Made Easier! – Here’s how to use the double-digit multiplication organizers and worksheets.

Articles about Long Division:

Differentiated Long Division Worksheets for FREE – Grab these differentiated long division worksheets for FREE and dramatically boost student success and your teaching success!

How to Teach Multi-Digit Multiplication and Long Division – This blog article will introduce you to the differentiated multiplication and long division resources I have available. Then, you’ll learn exactly how I use them in my classroom.

Graph Paper Math Intervention – This blog article explains how to use graph paper as a quick and easy intervention resource with your students. It includes links to free printable graph paper and ideas about using it in your classroom.