10 Magical Multiplication Tricks to Teach Kids to Multiply

multiplication tables on a chalk board

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Not all kids are able to learn multiplication facts using rote memorization. Luckily, there are 10 multiplication magic tricks to teach kids to multiply and many multiplication card games to help.

In fact, research has shown that rote memorization doesn’t help kids to learn the connections between numbers or understand the rules of multiplication. Practically-based math, or finding ways to help kids do math activities in real life, is more effective than just teaching the facts.

Represent multiplication

Using things like blocks and small toys can help your child see that multiplication is really a way to add more than one group of the same number over and over again. For example, write the problem 6 x 3 on a piece of paper, and then ask your child to create six groups of three blocks each. She will then see what the problem is asking us to put together six groups of three.

Practice doubles facts

The idea of “doubles” is almost magical in itself. Once your child knows the answers to her “doubles” addition facts (adding a number to itself) she magically knows the twos times table as well. Just remind her that any number multiplied by two is the same as adding that number to itself—the problem is asking how much are two groups of that number.

Skip-counting to five facts

Your child may already know how to count by fives. What she may not know is that by counting by five, she’s actually reciting the fives times table. Demonstrate that if she uses her fingers to keep track of how many times she’s “counted” by five, she can find the answer to any fives problem. For instance, if he’s counted by five up to twenty, he’ll have four fingers held up. That’s actually the same as 5 x 4!

Magical Multiplication Tricks

There are other ways to get the answers that aren’t as easy to see through. Once your child knows how to do the tricks, she’ll be able to amaze her friends and teachers with her multiplication talent.

Magically Multiplying Zero

Help your child write out the 10 times table and then ask if she notices a pattern. What she should be able to see is that when multiplied by the number 10, a number looks like itself with a zero on the end. Give her a calculator to try it out using large numbers. She’ll see that every time she multiplies by 10, that zero “magically” appears on the end.

Multiplying by zero doesn’t seem all that magical. It’s hard for kids to understand that when you multiply a number by zero the answer is zero, not the number you started with. Help your child understand that the question really is “How much is zero groups of something?” and she’ll realize the answer is “Nothing.” She’ll see how the other number disappeared.

Seeing Double

The magic of the 11 times tables only works with single digits, but that’s okay. Show your child how multiplying by 11 always makes you see the double of the number she’s multiplying. For instance, 11 x 8 = 88 and 11 x 6 = 66.

Doubling Down

Once your child has figured out the trick to her twos table, then she’ll be able to make magic with fours. Show her how to fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise and unfold it to make two columns. Ask her to write her twos tables in one column and the fours table in the next column. The magic that she should see is that the answers are the doubles doubled. That is, if 3 x 2 = 6 (the double), then 3 x 4 = 12. The double is doubled!

Magic Fives

This trick is a little odd, but only because it only works with odd numbers. Write down the fives multiplication facts that use an odd number and watch as your child finds the magical oddity. She may see that if she subtracts one from the multiplier, “cuts” it in half and puts a five after it, that’s the answer to the problem.

Not following? Look at it like this: 5 x 7 = 35, which is actually 7 minus 1 (6), cut in half (3) with a 5 on the end (35).

Even More Magic Fives

There’s another way to make the fives tables appear if you don’t want to use skip-counting. Write down all the fives facts that involve even numbers, and look for a pattern. What should appear before your eyes are that each answer is simply half of the number your child is multiplying by five, with a zero on the end. Not a believer? Check out these examples: 5 x 4 = 20, and 5 x 10 = 50.

Magical Finger Math

Finally, the most magical trick of all—your child just needs her hands to learn the times' tables. Ask her to put her hands face down in front of her and explain that the fingers on the left hand represent the numbers 1 through 5. The fingers on the right hand represent the numbers 6 through 10.

  • And, for the first trick, ask her to fold down the index finger on his left hand, or finger number 4.
  • Remind her that 9 x 4 = 36, and then have her look at her hands. To the left of her bent finger, there are 3 fingers. To the right are her remaining 6 fingers.
  • The magic to this trick is that the number given to the finger that she folds down x 9 is equal to the number of fingers to the left of the bent finger (in the tens place) and the fingers to the right (in the one's place.)

Recalling the answers to multiplication facts is a key skill your child will need to master in order to move on to more complicated types of math. That’s why schools spend so much time trying to make sure that kids can pull up the answers as quickly as possible.

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Morin, Amanda. "10 Magical Multiplication Tricks to Teach Kids to Multiply." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/magical-multiplication-tricks-2086556. Morin, Amanda. (2020, August 28). 10 Magical Multiplication Tricks to Teach Kids to Multiply. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/magical-multiplication-tricks-2086556 Morin, Amanda. "10 Magical Multiplication Tricks to Teach Kids to Multiply." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/magical-multiplication-tricks-2086556 (accessed March 22, 2023).