Introducing Multiplication: How To Activities & Ideas

At the end of second grade or 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

Introducing Multiplication Activities

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!

The Focus of the X

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

My students always loved saying, “We’re working on times!” To be honest, that drove me a little crazy. They aren’t wrong, but I wanted to instill in them that the x means groups of. Every time they said that I would ask them to tell me another way to say it. Sure, they got sick of it, but it clicked with them!

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

Free Introducing Multiplication Activity

One year I had a great idea where I wanted my students to create their own set of task cards for the class using stickers! First, I wrote a bunch of numbers on slips of paper into a bin (repeat numbers are fine.) Each student drew out a number, and that number represented how many stickers they were to use to make an array.

When I did it for the first time, I just used index cards. However, it was difficult to keep track of all of the student-made task cards. Plus, I wanted my students to have a recording sheet to use.

That’s why I made this freebie for you! It’s a simple task card template for your students to use as they make their own sticker arrays!

Student created arrays using stickers.

Classroom Tested Resources

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

Pin any of these images to save for later!

Introduce multiplication with arrays, repeated addition, and equal groups
free task card templates for sticker arrays
Introduce multiplication with arrays, repeated addition, and equal groups

Like this post? You might want read more about math centers here!

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