How to Teach Multiplication to 3rd Grade

What happens if my child does not know all his or her multiplication facts?
The simple answer is that you can not allow this to happen.  As children go up through the grades they rely more and more heavily on multiplication.

I have taught everything from 2nd through 6th grade.  It is disheartening to see children who are in the 6th grade and still do not know their multiplication facts.  The 6th grade math standards are focused on ratios, multiplying and dividing fractions, multiplying and dividing percentages & decimals, solving algebraic equations – just to name a few.  All of these standards require the prerequisite skill of knowing the multiplication facts.

There are a number of things you can do to make sure your child understands the concepts of multiplication.  First, make sure that they know that multiplication is groups of  something.

I have 5-groups of 4-eggs.
Therefore, I have the multiplication equation of 5 x 4, which gives me a total of 20 eggs.

Is it cheating if my child counts by fours?
Absolutely not!  Counting by the numbers, as I like to call it, deepens the concept that multiplication is groups of a certain number of something – in this case 5 groups of 4 eggs.  It can also be thought of as repeated addition, or skip counting.  In the illustration above, we have groups of 4 eggs.  Your child could count it like this:
Your child should learn this concept in 2nd grade.  If they do not fully understand this concept, I would take some time to make up different scenarios like the eggs above.  Have your child draw groups of elephants, motorcycles, whatever they get excited about.  Try to make it fun.

Once your child understands that multiplication is just repeated addition or groups of something, you’re ready to move onto a multiplication table.

Print out the multiplication table below


1 – Discuss counting by the numbers with your child:

  •  Rows going across are really just repeated addition, or counting by the numbers.
  •  Columns going up & down are really just repeated addition, or counting by the numbers.

This would be the very first thing I would discuss with my child.  It reiterates what we just showed them with groups of a number, and why you can count by the number of eggs or whatever else you are multiplying.

2 – Discuss the diagonal, gray boxes

The two halves of the table are a mirror image of one another.  Point out how the two 6’s can be gotten by multiplying 2 x 3 or 3 x 2.  Explain that the top half and the bottom half are a mirror reflection of one another.  Therefore, your child only has to memorize half of this table.


3 – Discuss the commonalities within the table.

Here are some you might notice with your child:
– Even numbered rows always have an even product.  The product is the answer to a multiplication equation, for example: 6 is the product of 2 x 3.  The 2 and the 3 are called factors.
– Even numbered columns also always have an even product.
– Odd numbered rows alternate between even and odd products.
– Odd numbered columns also alternate between even and odd products.
– Anything multiplied by ten is that same number with a zero behind it, (for example: 4 x 10 = 40).
– Anything multiplied by 11 is that number in both the one’s digit and the ten’s digit, (for example: 11 x 4 = 44).
– The center diagonal numbers are all products of numbers that are multiplied by themselves.  These are also called squared numbers, because you are squaring the factors.  It’s like finding the area of a square, or multiplying by the power of 2, (For example: 62 is the same as 6 x 6, which equals 36).  But I digress – that is higher level math.

Why is it important for my child to see these commonalities?
As children continue into higher and higher grade levels, it becomes more and more important for them to make connections and see commonalities.  These connections & commonalities build their understanding.  Ultimately – understanding connections and commonalities will help your child make the abstract concepts of math more concrete, and enable them to be successful.

4 – Get a set of multiplication flash cards.

Show your child a flash card.  Let’s say you show them the 3 x 4 card.  If they say 12 right away with no hesitation, then they have it memorized.  Color in the 3 x 4 square on your multiplication table.  That card can be put aside.  You do not really need to use it any longer.

If they hesitate, but get the answer, then they are closing in on having that fact memorized.  This is good.  Compliment your child, but keep that card and do not color in the square on the multiplication chart.

If they have no idea of the answer or how to get it – then they need a strategy.  I will show you a couple of power-packed strategies a little later in this post.

What if my child is just beginning to learn multiplication?
Start with the 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s in your flash card deck.  Save the higher numbers for a bit later.  In the beginning you will focus on the first three rows & columns of the multiplication table.

Mix the cards up, making sure that you only have the cards with factors of one through three.  Use the cards as I describe above.  If you show them 3 x 4 and they say 12 with no hesitation – color in that square.

When you have colored in all but six squares in the first three rows and columns add the 4’s.  This is where you will move on to the multiples of four.  You will continue to work with the multiplication table and color in the rows and columns.  Each time you get down to 6 empty squares, add a row and column until you have filled in the entire multiplication table.

A Secret Strategy of Learning

I have used these two strategies to help my students gain memorization of their multiplication fact.  It works wonders!


By utilizing the multiplication strategy along with counting by the numbers and the Palm Strategy, your child will be set up for success!

Good luck my friends!

One more thing:

I developed my educational fantasy game, TeachersDungeon, with the intension of helping children reach their academic potential.  The game self-adjusts to each players level of academic ability.  Check here to create a free account.

Let me know if there is any way I can help!

Novels by McCoy

I have written a number of books that are available on Amazon.  I have nonfiction books on mathematics that link to video tutorials and are designed to help children gain a deeper understanding of the math.  Here is a link to the first book in my series on fractions.  I have also written a chapter book and a young adult novel.  You can have a free preview by clicking on the links below.

MY ADVENTURES WITH CHICKENSPIKE – This is a chapter book that is perfect for children in 3rd and 4th grades.  My Adventures with ChickenSpike is a Children’s Fantasy Book.  The main character is a young boy who is being bullied.  He travels to a distant planet and finds his inner strength.  By the time he returns home not only is he no longer a victim, he is a hero!



RED – This is a young adult novel that is especially designed for children in 5th and 6th grades.  Red is an action packed adventure with two main characters and a number of supporting characters that add humor and drama to this novel.  Bruno Vic and Evelyn Rose attend Sir Francis Drake Middle School.  Bruno is big, street-wise, and tough, but he also has high morals and undying loyalty to his friends.  Evelyn Rose was born rich, but an unfortunate turn of events has landed her in the heart of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco.  Bruno, Evelyn, and their friends are desperate to steer clear of the gangs, so the turn to a mysterious man that the gangs seem to fear.  His name is Red.

Until next time…
Have a great day – Brian McCoy

24 Comments on “How to Teach Multiplication to 3rd Grade

  1. I always knew half of the multiplication table was the same, but i never thought of it as having to learn only half of the table.

  2. I like how you showed different ways to do multiplication. I thought the way where you put the rocks in groups was pretty cool.

  3. This blog will help people that have younger kids in 2nd or 3rd grade. This also will get kids get ready for 3rd or just to practice their multiplication table. This is another great blog in my opinion.

  4. I really like your post. I will get back on your website in the next few days and i will promote it to my facebook group. I think most of our group member will like it. Thanks

  5. One of the ways our third grade teacher taught us multiplication is by putting the times behind the number. For example- 5×4 is 5 FOUR TIMES and we would count by fives four times.

    1. HI Nikola –
      Yes – that is a great strategy.
      It’s also an effective way of teaching multiplication. Ultimately you want to memorize all your facts, but when you do not know a fact you need a strategy to fall back on and that’s a great one.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Have a great day!

  6. I think what you wrote was really good and that kids should learn they’re multiplication facts.
    I think what you explained was awesome and well done. If kids follow your suggestions, they should be able to do multiplication after a few weeks.
    In my opinion everyone should use your strategy.

    1. Hello –
      Thanks for your compliment. I developed this site myself. I used the basic themes for WordPress. I like the simplistic themes, because it keeps the website clean.
      Thanks again.
      Have a fantastic day!

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