Introducing Multiplication: How To Activities & Ideas

At the end of second grade or the beginning of 3rd grade, it’s usually time to start introducing multiplication!

If I had a quarter for every time a 2nd grader asked me when we were going to learn multiplication I’d be… well, I’d have a decent number of quarters. But in all honesty, my 2nd graders always wanted to learn multiplication because it is BIG KID STUFF.

Introducing Multiplication with a Number Talk

So you know what I like to do during one of my first multiplication lessons? I just don’t tell them we’re about to do multiplication! Instead, I start our math mini-lesson with a number talk or word problem, which is what they’re used to.

Here’s an example of a problem I’d pose:

There are 4 bags of cookies. Each bag contains 3 cookies. How many cookies are there in all?”

As students begin to solve this problem, we draw a quick sketch of what this looks like. If we have students that immediately think the answer is 7 (you know we all have one), sketching it out will help tremendously.

Visual demonstration of a multiplication word problem

Once we figure out that the answer is 12, I love to tell students that they just did their first multiplication problem. *Insert bug-eyed students*

Now I also introduce some of the key vocabulary we will learn including: multiply, array, repeated addition, product, and factors. These posters are perfect to keep up during our multiplication unit.

Introducing Multiplication with Arrays

In 2nd grade, students learn about arrays, so I love incorporating many hands-on activities for this. One of my favorite activities is pulling out Froot Loops for students to use to make arrays. I ask students to create different arrays for different numbers.

Teacher Tip: I like to give students that sit close to each other different numbers. This helps them focus on finding their own arrays!

Students make arrays using Froot Loops or other small cereal pieces

Hands-On Activities for Introducing Multiplication

When introducing multiplication, it’s important to focus on arrays, equal groups, and repeated addition. It is essential that you pull out manipulatives to help model what multiplication looks like in real life. Just like I did with the Froot Loop arrays, students need to see equal groups!

You can get creative with the different items you use for modeling multiplication. I like to use something different every few lessons just to switch it up, and the kids love it!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mini marshmallows
  • Cheerios (or any dry cereal)
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Small stickers
  • Transparent bingo chips
  • Mini erasers
  • Beads
  • Colorful pom poms
  • Buttons
  • Cupcake liners (great to demonstrate groups)

I like to use some of the manipulatives listed above to complete the activities shown here. I always have students build with manipulatives before writing or drawing anything on their papers! You can find these activities here!

Use your mini erasers to build arrays!

Teach Students What the X Means

As we get started with multiplication, your big focus is on equal groups, arrays, and repeated addition. When students see the x for multiplication, they need to know that it means groups of (or rows of if you’re talking about arrays.) This will help build a solid foundation for multiplication.

Have you had students that love saying, “We’re working on times!” If you’re like me, it drives me a little crazy. Students aren’t wrong, but you need to instill in them that the x means groups of.

When students say this, ask them to tell you another way to say it. Sure, they’ll get sick of it, but it will start to click!

This center is perfect for helping students learn that multiplication is really made of groups!

Two Free Introducing Multiplication Activities

1.) Sticker Arrays: Let your students to create their own set of task cards for the class using stickers! You can give students a total number or let them create their own array, just know that you might have a few repeats!

Then, hang up the cards around the classroom. Students will walk around, find the arrays, and complete the recording sheet.

2.) Airplane Arrays: In this activity, students choose a _ rows of _ card and build the arrays using the airplane manipulatives. Then, students will complete the recording sheet by drawing the array and writing the repeated addition sentence.

Grab both freebies below!


Download two free introducing multiplication activities, sticker arrays and airplane arrays! Leave your email below!

Classroom Tested Resources

I LOVE introducing multiplication. It can be so hands-on and engaging. You can find the entire unit of introducing multiplication activities, worksheets, and centers right here!

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