Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible

21Nov/077

Help kids learn multiplication with this visual approach

I'm always impressed to see a new way to do something familiar. Recently, I happened upon a fascinating video, titled Weaving Numbers at the IsAllAboutMath web-site, which has some instructional Math-related videos.

Weaving Numbers demonstrates several non-traditional ways to do multiplication. I found the Napier's bones approach depicted fascinating as well but the one I want to focus on today is the visual approach to multiplication.

The video goes a bit fast for my tastes but since I already had a sense of what visual multiplicationVisual Multiplication from Mudd Fun Math Facts would be like I was able to follow it. Here's a nice explanation of the approach from Mudd Math Fun Facts if you can't figure out what's going on in the video or if you want to understand why this technique works.

What I particularly like about this number weaving approach is the visual nature of it. Kids who have a hard time memorizing the multiplication table can simply count the number of points of intersection between the lines that cross. After a while the idea that 2 rows of 3 dots = 3 rows of 2 dots = 6 dots will come naturally to them. What's also wonderful about this approach is that kids can do multiplication by doing addition! So, as soon as kids are comfortable with addition, including carrying, they can learn to multiply. Also, kids can use different colors, as in the illustration above, to engage more fully with the numbers they're multiplying.

Once kids get grounded in this approach to multiplication, and as their confidence builds, they'll learn more quickly, and with better understanding, the approach most of us are taught in school.

A final point, as a Math fanatic, I am delighted whenever I see something like multiplication, which is pretty much taught as an algebraic function, seen from a geometric perspective.

Comments (7) Trackbacks (2)
  1. Wow, this looks fascinating – I have majored in Mathematics for Education in my B.Ed. degree – I love this approach as it also fits with the “visual learner”

    I would be tempted to say though that it should be regarded as a “device” but that children would need to understand what multiplication is, and if they only learn this approach, they may not understand what is happening when they multiply one number by the other.

    THanks for sharing.

  2. John,

    I agree. Understanding is important.But, I’m not sure kids are taught why any device for multiplication works. If this one gets them engaged and gets them able to multiply where other techniques fail it’s a positive start.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Too true. So many people tell me that they “can’t do maths” – and I think one of the reasons is that they were never taught to engage with the numbers and understand what is happening. They just get told “this is how you multiply” etc. etc. but they never shown the secret of why the algorithms work.

    I have experimented with this method and certainly it makes sense and what’s more – it illustrates what I always try to stress when teaching this concept that the “trick” is multiplying each “part” of the one number with each part of the other number. Use of colour is great too. What I might do is start off by using it to multiply single digit numbers, and then progressing to second and third etc. On the other hand, it is also useful to employ the “mystery” of the method a little bit too.

    Oh – I can see I’m going to have fun with this.

  4. John,

    I’m always fascinated by different ways of doing familiar things. A friend who runs a learning center uses lattice multiplication (related to Napier’s bones or Napier’s rods). I’ll cover these approaches in a blog post at some point but you can find information on these approaches via Google).

    Your approach of starting with single digit numbers makes sense. You could then multiply a 2 digit number by a 1-digit number and expand as you mention.

  5. Hi Sol

    Thanks for your posting and thank you for your comments on the isallaboutmath.com Video Podcast.

    You are doing a great job with your blog. Very recently we started also a blog at

    http://blog.isallaboutmath.com

    about math and isallaboutmath.com

    Best Regards
    Julio

  6. Julio,

    Thanks for the feedback. I’ll check out your blog.

  7. I have a site called ” Dotmath for kids ” that you can find with google. It explains math as groups of dots. I use the dice dots and associate them to
    the number symbol. The numer symbol is created from the dice dots so they
    start with the dice and make the symbol from the dice patteren. This is a
    strong association leaning program that helps explain grade 12 math at a
    level that K-5 students can understand.
    I showed an 11 year old student a chart I have for grade 12 and explained
    it to him in one hour. He took the grade 12 test on the internet and passed it.
    I only have the k-5 material on the web site. You can send for the lesson plans for the k-5 and I am still working on the lesson plans for the upper grade level
    material.

    Owen Prince


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