Friday, October 17, 2014

Multiplication Mania

I call the method, "Multiplication Mania (MM)," because it's wild and crazy and puts healthy pressure on students of one elementary school classroom, to learn the multiplication problems they have trouble with. In a nutshell, it is one hour of drill but it is much more than that. In MM, I break the times table into two parts (1-6 and 7-12) and work on them separately. With the problems and answers written on the board, the children chant them in unison, along with me. Then, they write the complete problem and answer on paper, saying the numbers as they write. We chant and write/say two or three times, depending on how well the class knows the table.

Then we do a mixed test, where the problems are not in order. I say a problem (e.g., 7x3), and the students write the problem and answer down (no chanting). We do all six of the subset (entire table). I will ask one student to tell us his or her answers, students check to see how many they got right. I will ask some of the students if they missed one and to tell me so I can help them.

The help comes through the "30 Second Sweat Competition."  For thirty seconds, students write down, as many times as they can, the one problem (and answer) that is giving them the most trouble. I always know what students are working on what problem. When the drill is over, students count how many times they were able to write the problem and answer and we declare a winner. But they all know, success is doing a little better than the last time.

I will also do the Mixed Test with the students writing down only the answers, not the problem. At this stage, they are really working hard to remember because I will do this drill several times, picking up speed as I see they can handle it.

So, for about 15 minutes, we chant, write and say, do mixed tests, and 30 second drills. We then go on to the seconds subset and do that for about 15 minutes. We always have extra pencils and paper available for they will go through them quickly.

We then do the same for the entire table, with the exception of the 30 second drill. This will take 10 minutes.

The final part of MM is  the Game. It's a Mixed Test for the entire table with students writing down the answer only. After a test, students exchange papers, someone calls out the answers, and the papers are graded. I start out giving the problems slowly, three seconds apart or even more, depending on the class and the students who are having trouble; I want them all to get a perfect score on this first test. Then I pick up the speed as we do more tests. If a student misses one problem he or she is out of the competition. We eventually end up with one winner.

But I have conducted a different version of the Game, where no one is eliminated. I do go faster and faster however, putting pressure on their recall. For this version, we pre and post test and the winners are those who improved and those who got a perfect score. Of course, I don't tell them this until just before the Post Test.

There's more to MM but you would have to see me perform to understand. For example, I offer little tricks to help the students remember a problem/answer some are having difficulty with. On one occasion, the teacher told me, "I always had trouble with 7  x 8." From that point, during mixed tests, when I got to that problem, I said, "the teachers." This association helped many of them learn.

After a drill, I might point at a student who, for example, was having trouble with 7 x 9 = 63 and ask, "7 x 9 equal what?" I may do this for two or three students, bam bam bam. This component is essential for success. Please don't forget about it.

Lastly, we always have fun. It's not drill,  drill, drill. It's a blast. I even hold a box of Kleenex, offering one to a student and saying, "If you are going to fold to the pressure, take one." I know exactly which students can handle this teasing and which can't. I may tell a joke (why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9. Ha Ha).

Have fun running MM and let me know if you have any questions at


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