Free fun hands-on ways to teach multiplication – let them eat now

Fun hands-on ways to teach multiplication includes using food, buttons and pasta to help children learn the multiplication tables, and it has been very effective. Furthermore, they have a long-lasting impact on their understanding of the times tables.

My own research, from my 10 years of teaching, has shown me that children who just recite numbers and just try to memorize them have less of an understanding of the times table. However, children who start learning the times tables by manipulating objects have a better understanding. Viewing and manipulating objects, drawings, pictures, cubes, buttons, and food is crucial in allowing children to develop their multiplication tables sense. Indeed, Maria Montessori (1870 to 1852) was an advocate of hands-on practical experiences for learning maths.

Count and eat chocolate!

Why is being hands-on important?

1: Firstly, the children need to be able to discuss the multiplication tables clearly and logically. Children that manipulate objects can see what is happening and understand visually how the multiplication tables work.

2: This also increases their interest in maths, as they can now talk about maths and understand it in a way whereas just looking at numbers on a paper is not possible. The children can own the math by stating examples that they have made by themselves using the objects that have been given to them.

3: Maths can be an abstract subject. It is especially important to endeavor to make it less abstract for students and more concrete. Only by experiencing and manipulating objects can the children truly begin to understand how the multiplication tables work.

Count pieces of fruit!

More reasons why fun hands-on ways to teach multiplication are good

4: Children that struggle with maths should go back to the basics and use concrete examples. They can then look for patterns and trends. This will allow them to visually see and understand what is going on. This is far more valuable for them than just looking at numbers on a piece of paper.

The time for doing drill work will come, from the beginning, it is important that they understand the concept of multiplication.  Children that own an experience are more likely to remember the experience than the board work or lesson led by a teacher.

Let the children interact and they will learn! 

Count pasta shells!

5: This is excellent for teaching patience as well; students will stay at a task that requires manipulation for much longer than they will on a maths drill worksheet for example. Therefore, the outcome for using concrete examples and manipulating them is highly successful. It is an excellent way to allow students to learn in a non-stressful, calm environment.

6. Children love to move items around and manipulate them. Here are some of the items you can use to help:



Sugar cubes



Orange segments

Cut up apple pieces.

Cut up fruit pieces.



Note: Be careful when you have small children around as they can choke on small pieces. Do not use raw kidney beans as these are highly toxic if eaten.

Finally, have fun learning with concrete examples. Children will love every minute of this and enjoy learning through their own experiences.

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