Teaching students how to solve double-digit multiplication problems is one of my favorite skills to teach in 4th grade, which is a good thing as it is both an SLO and an ELO. (Don’t you just love the educational acronyms flying around already?! LOL) Basically it means “they gotta learn it!” My grade-level team decided on four different strategies to teach students, and from those four we want kids to be proficient in at least two of them. Today’s post will share how I structure the distributed practice throughout my week for this important skill once the main unit of study has concluded.
Our multiplication unit of study occurs primarily in late September and runs through early November. While I wish I could say all of my students were masters at 2-digit multiplication once we are through, that’s not reality. A lot of my students understand the basics, but for a variety of reasons still need much more practice. These reasons include not having the basic facts memorized, language impairments making it hard for them to remember multi-step operations, and poor conceptual understandings with place value and regrouping. For whatever reason, continued distributed practice is a must for them once our unit is “finished.”
4 Multiplication Strategies
The four strategies we use with multiplication at my school are:
- lattice model
- distributive property
- area model
- traditional algorithm
I don’t have any particular preference for the order in which I teach these strategies with one major exception – save the traditional algorithm for last. In my opinion, it’s the hardest to learn although there’s always one or two students who seem to prefer it right away. If you’re unfamiliar with some of these strategies, I suggest a quick search on YouTube – there are lots of good videos that will get you started.
Once I’ve concluded our multiplication unit, it’s time to begin the strategies practice! First, I start with our morning work. Up until this point in the school year, students have entered the classroom most days with a cursive practice page waiting for them on their desks. This week they had a new challenge waiting for them – there was my strategy practice template on the back of their cursive.
Here’s my schedule:
- Monday – spelling list on their desks so no strategy practice this morning.
- Tuesday through Friday – we focus on one letter per week, which is a full page of cursive. On the back of the cursive paper (to save a tree or two) is the strategy practice template.
When my students enter the classroom, their morning work is already on their desks. Displayed on my Promethean Board is a copy of the strategy template with two double-digit factors written on the board. Students copy the two factors onto their paper and solve the problem using all four strategies. This paper gets turned in and I definitely grade it. Their work on this template serves as an entrance slip, which gives me on-going information about who is improving and where any possible misconceptions still exist.
Spiraled Math Review
Another way I like to continue practicing is with our spiraled daily math review. I got this resource from Clutter-Free Classroom, and I’ve happily used it for the last three years. Question #3 is always a multiplication problem. The problems in August are basic multiplication facts kids should know, but in November it switches to double-digit and coincides perfectly with the end of our multiplication unit. In order to better practice all four strategies, I created a rotation for the strategies as shown in the image below.
On Mondays through Thursdays, we practice only one strategy each day and complete the spiraled review together in class. Use this time for continued modeling of the strategies and addressing common errors and misconceptions, especially with your struggling students. Fridays, however, are different. Students complete the review on their own as a quiz. They are expected to solve the double-digit multiplication problem using any two strategies of their choice on the back of their review paper. These are also collected and scored with particular attention paid to those who seem to be having difficulty. I allow my students to have access to a multiplication chart when completing this assignment so if there are any errors, it’s probably not due to lack of fact mastery.
I created two versions of my strategy template with the difference being that in one version I included a blank lattice model so students wouldn’t have to draw it. This is an option I would only use early in our distributed practice. No such pre-drawn model is offered on our final assessment so I don’t want students to be too dependent on this support. Usually I don’t even need it, but every so often I find I have a student who struggles in the beginning with drawing the lattice.
If your students need extra practice at solving 2-digit multiplication problems, you can click on the link below to get my strategy template for free. Thanks for reading this long post! Happy teaching!