Get ready to have FUN with math, because this post is full of ALL the most awesome hands-on multiplication activities! Kids will be delighted to see dice, markers, coins, LEGO bricks, and more at math time instead of simply worksheets or textbooks.
I actually do not have a problem with worksheets. We use them in our homeschooling! But when it comes to introducing a new math concept, such as multiplication, a good hands-on activity can really help kids grasp the concept at a much deeper level.
I chose activities for this post that focus on the concept of multiplication. These are not activities for memorizing the multiplication tables – I’ll put those in a separate post.
In this post, we’ll focus on understanding multiplication as:
- Repeated addition, such as 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 2 x 4.
- Grouping, such as 2 groups of 4 = 2 x 4.
- Arrays, such as 2 rows with 4 in each row.
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Muffin Tin Multiplication
This is a great place to start. Just grab a muffin pan, some index cards, and some items to use as counters. We used math linking cubes, but you can also use pom pom balls, pennies, mini erasers, buttons, or anything similar.
I made a set of multiplication cards for my 2nd grader to use. I didn’t do EVERY fact for now – just a selection of 15 or so to get him started with the concept.
Here’s how this activity works. Simply grab a multiplication card. The first number tells you how many groups you’ll make, and the second number tells you how many are in each group. So the photo above shows four groups of five. Kids can easily see that 4 x 5 = 20.
Graph Paper Arrays
My son enjoyed this activity a lot – more than I thought he would! He even asked to get it back out another day.
The concept is simple. Roll the dice. There are two options here. For beginners, I would recommend rolling two dice and forming your array from the two numbers. For example, rolling a 5 and a 6 would mean a multiplication sentence of 5 x 6. The other option, which will allow kids to work with larger numbers, is to roll two dice for the first number in the multiplication sentence and then roll two dice for the second number.
Poker Chip Arrays
Use poker chips to build arrays!
Arrays are very visual and hands-on. These poker chip arrays are also useful to showing that multiplication is commutative. Rotate the multiplication fact card 90 degrees to the right, and kids can easily see that 7 rows of 5 are equal to 5 rows of 7.
If you don’t have poker chips, buttons would work well! Or cookies! Ha!
Multiplication Toy Store
This activity is our favorite of ALL! Not only will kids be practicing multiplication, but if you provide coins to pay with they’ll also be working on money and making change.
This activity shows kids how multiplication is a faster way to do repeated addition.
First, set up your store. In order for this to work as a multiplication activity, you’ll need to have several of each item. Make price tags for each category of items. For example, dice for 2 cents each, cars for 5 cents each, etc. Then someone can purchase 3 cars, for example, and the cashier will need to figure out the cost. 3 cars x 5 cents each = 15 cents.
(This prompted a funny discussion between my kids and I on prices in elementary math books. Where can you buy a kite for 20 cents and a ball for 15 cents and a top for 6 cents? In an elementary math book, that’s where! Ha!)
Assign a child to be the cashier. The cashier will make each person a receipt with… guess what… multiplication sentences! I made these fun receipts, and I have them available for you to print.
We found these cute little shopping baskets at Hobby Lobby. My kids thought they were great fun! It was easiest for the cashier to sort each person’s purchases by type of item, and then write up the receipt.
The kids paid with coins from our coin jar, and the cashier gave back change where necessary.
SO MUCH FUN! Pull this activity out on a day where no one has any motivation.
Want to print the multiplication store receipts? CLICK HERE: Multiplication Store Receipts
LEGO Minifigure Multiplication
This multiplication activity demonstrates multiplication by making equal groups. Gather a LEGO baseplate and a bunch of mini figures.
Then use your same multiplication cards that you’ve been using for all these activities to build some LEGO minifigure groups.
Represent 9 x 2 = 18 with 9 groups of 2 LEGO guys in each group.
We checked to see if 2 groups of 9 LEGO guys were equal to 9 groups of 2. And they were!
Circles and Stars
Here is another multiplication activity with grouping. I found this activity in About Teaching Mathematics by Marilyn Burns. This was my college textbook in math methods class, and the version I have linked to is an updated version, so I’m not sure if it still has this game in it. Either way, I highly recommend this book for any math teacher! I’ve used it so much over the years!
This game is simple. Roll the dice once to tell you how many circles to draw. Roll the dice again to tell you how many stars to draw in each circle.
Then write your multiplication sentences!
Use one dice for beginners and two for kids who need to move on to bigger numbers.
We chose to do this activity on the white board, which made it even more fun and also kept us from going through a ton of paper.
MORE MULTIPLICATION IDEAS!
LEGO Multiplication Towers
Here’s a fun way to practice multiplication with LEGO bricks! This activity teaches multiplication as making equal groups. There’s also a printable activity mat to go with it. See it here: LEGO Multiplication Towers
Make a 3D LEGO Multiplication Graph
This activity is a little bit of work to set up, but WOW – it really provides a great visual for multiplication! See it here: LEGO Multiplication Graph
Multiplication Games with Dice
This post has a couple of hands-on multiplication games to play with dice! There are several ideas in the post for manipulatives to use. The egg carton multiplication game is especially simple to set up.
See it here: Multiplication Games with Dice