Teaching Multiplication with Strategy Ball:The Factors of 3

Up to this point you have used the Multiplication Guide to teach the factors of 2 and 5.  This was the easy part and all of your students should have that mastered within a week.  Now comes the part where they are going to need to put forth the effort; the factors of 3.

This will be the second most difficult part on the journey to mastering their multiplication facts.  I always bring them to the front of the room and write the factors of 3, all the way to 30.  I will call on random students to recite each factor and erase the last factor each time the student successfully states the factors (all the way to 30).  You will find that they struggle with this much more than with the 2's and 5's. You will find yourself continuously writing the facts that you've erased back up on the board.  It is important to realize that if you can get them to master their 3's, you are more than half way there to having your class completely mastering all of their facts.

Mistakes in teaching facts in my early years

Early on in my teaching, I taught the memorization of multiplication like most.  I would attempt to constantly pound the memorization of all facts into their heads.  I would start at the factor of 2 and vigorously work my way to the factors of 9.  Very few students could learn this way.  By the time I got to the factor of 6, I found that they were mixing up their memorization of the other factors that they knew with these factors. This would happen year in and year out.  It was a very ineffective practice therefore, they never fully mastered their facts.  If students don't have their facts mastered, its seems to have some type of effect on other skills you will try to teach in the future.

The Solution: Multiplication Guide

After thinking for years on how to teach the memorization of multiplication facts differently, I realized that it is only necessary to memorize the factors of 2-5.  Fortunately, the kids already have been exposed to skip-counting by 2's and 5's in previous years.  What that means is if we can get them to master their factors of 3 and 4, we have not only saved a tremendous amount of time, but now other lessons will now have a much greater flow due to everyone knowing their facts.

First day teaching the 3's

As a teacher, you must stress the importance of mastering this.  Break out any form of motivation that you know of.  I keep the teaching practice the same as when I taught the 2's and 5's.  Allow them to begin by studying alone, then with a partner, and then bringing the whole group to the front for the whiteboard practice (writing all factors from 3-30 and erasing last factor when they correctly say it all the way to 30).  I have found this to be very effective as well because it brings a little pressure to the students to memorize.  When the class gets close to erasing all the factors and someone messes up and I write them back on the board, they kind of get on the person to pay better attention.  They always seem to put forth more effort when criticism comes from another peer.

Don't Forget to go around the room!

After you send the kids back to their seats.  Always go around the room and do a factor check.  At this point, you should go to each individual student and have everyone say their 2's, 5's, then 3's.  I also highly recommend to write the students names on the board that don't have these down solid.  Obviously on the first couple of days of teaching a new factor, I wouldn't include these on the list, but, it is easy to identify those that aren't keeping up with the others.  If there is any hesitation, they aren't fluent.  Put their name on the board under the factor that they struggle with.

Assign a study buddy

When you identify those that struggle, seek volunteers within your classroom.  You'll be surprised at how many kids are eager to help others learn.  I ask them to sit together during lunch and study.  This not only accomplishes their fact mastery, but teaches my volunteers how good it feels to help others.

Finish each lesson with Strategy Ball

Of course the question at the end is, "Can we shoot now?"  This has become a major motivational tool for me.  When I feel that the students aren't giving me their best, I always let them know that we may not play a game if it doesn't pick up.  The students that are trying will once again let my slackers know that they will not be happy if we don't play due to their lack of effort.

When we do play, I always incorporate the factors that were just taught that day.  I also tell them that if they score above 30 points in one game, that they earn another free game.  I have found that this has built a unity within my class and its nice to see them support one another.