DEAR TEACHER: Do you know of any cards, books or devices that are good at teaching the multiplication tables? That is what my second-grade granddaughter is struggling with. - Struggling

Answer: Learning the basic multiplication facts can be quite challenging. Some children can't seem to commit these facts to memory, even after they are in high school. One reason this happens is that too much time is spent on rote drill and too little on developing the concept of multiplication.

Often children don't understand what multiplying numbers does and need lots of opportunities to see how it works. You can do this by using flashcards with the facts 1 x 1 through 6 x 6 and some paper plates and counters. For the problem 3 x 5, your child should lay out three plates representing the first factor and then place five counters on each plate representing the second factor. Next the child should count the counters and write down the fact 3 x 5 = 15. All the flashcards should be worked through following this procedure.

The next step is to have your granddaughter randomly select a flashcard and write out the multiplication problem and the answer (product) if she remembers it. If she can't recall the product, she should use the plates and counters to determine it. This is more effective than you telling her the answer, as she is taking responsibility for the correctness of her work.

A similar procedure that you can use is to have her make arrays of blocks for all of the flashcards. For example, 3 x 4 can be shown by placing three blocks in the vertical direction and four in the horizontal direction. Again, she should write out the problems and the answers before drawing flashcards randomly.

Another approach is to have your granddaughter use a model to learn the facts. It works like this:

1. The child writes the problem 3 x 5.

2. The child then draws three horizontal lines.

3. Next the child draws five vertical lines through the horizontal lines.

4. The child counts the number of intersections to get the answer.

The advantage to these approaches is that the child is finding the solution through her own activity - not going to multiplication tables. This gives the child several strategies to fall back on if memory fails. After a while the child will get tired of using plates and blocks or drawing lines and will remember the facts.

Additionally, it is best to teach the 2s followed by the 3s, then 4s and so on.

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