Multiplying Whole Numbers: Ideas for 4th and 5th Grade
Looking for fresh ideas and activities for multiplying whole numbers that might make it more fun and help your 4th or 5th graders master the process of multiplication more quickly?
Nearly every group of 4th grade and 5th grade students I've taught have needed me to differentiate and scaffold their learning in order to help them master multiplication of whole numbers.
Over the years, I've learned to envision my standards on a continuum of learning by connecting what I want students to be able to do with lower-level skills that can help them "build up" to the grade-level learning goal. In addition to helping my struggling students master a concept, I like to figure out what would be required of students to go beyond my grade-level standards. I tack these more challenging skills onto my continuum of learning as a stretch for students who work beyond grade level.
I am a big advocate of knowing how your grade level's standards connect to the previous grade level AND the next grade level's standards. I've developed this love of connecting curriculum across grade levels because I'm passionate about differentiation--and this is how I see it being successful-- and I've been blessed during my teaching career to loop from 4th to 5th grade where I immediately understood my 5th grade curriculum in relation to the 4th grade "building blocks" I now had to teach.
But I also know that as teachers, sometimes we barely have time to do a deep dive into our own standards, so it can be even more challenging to find the time to figure out how to make appropriate connections within a span of grade levels.
Lucky for you, I love thinking about vertical alignment--the "stepping stones," and the "stretches" that I can use as a road map for differentiation in my classroom. I'm a nerd who's done the work for you!
Here's how I see the continuum of learning for 4th and 5th grade multiplication.
In this continuum, you can see that rather than giving students a mix of problems "on grade level" from the start of our multiplication unit, we can give them controlled practice that scaffolds them from 2 by 1 digit to at least 2 by 2 digit for 4th graders and 3 by 3 digit for 5th graders. We also have an idea of how to push students who quickly master the grade level standards.
So, given a continuum for learning to multiply whole numbers that is now concrete and makes common sense to us, how do we proceed with our teaching? Here are some ideas!
1) USE LEVELED ACTIVITIES and GAMES
One of my favorite ways to utilize scaffolding with computation skills is by incorporating dice games. When I discovered the power of 10-sided dice a few years ago, I went crazy designing dice games and activities for my students!
We can make sure that the games we have our students play for math practice incorporates the leveled continuum. I like to start by assigning students to the level that matches their ability OR the next level that they are trying to master.
For multiplication practice, I've created separate multiplication game boards for 2 by 1, 3 by 1, 4 by 1, 2 by 2, and 3 by 2 digit multiplication just for you!
The game boards include templates for the area model and the standard algorithm. I like to have my students master the area model and introduce the standard algorithm later---I love the area model, but as the numbers get larger, some students have more success with the standard algorithm. I believe both methods are deserving of adequate class time, especially for 5th graders.
Play games like this again and again, increasing the challenge for students each time. You can also have students play games like this with a partner OR independently. I do both and usually make it the games independent once the partner aspect has lost its novelty.
I've written more about this multiplication game here and you can get the "Roll and Multiply" game sent to your email by entering your info below.
2) USE LEVELED ASSESSMENTS
Utilizing leveled continuums, I've developed math assessments and practice sheets that allow you to assess where students are on the spectrum of "building blocks," "goals," and "stretching beyond."
These are perfect for knowing which level your students are at and therefore making it EASY for you to know exactly where to place them in differentiated activities. By pre- and post-assessing with these leveled problems, you can also visibly see how students grow in their mastery of concepts as the unit goes on.
3) INCORPORATE ERROR-ANALYSIS PROBLEMS
While your scaffolded games will add an awesome element of fun and differentiation as you help your students learn to multiply whole numbers, you will need additional activities to enrich their learning and make sure that no matter what level of mastery they are on, they can apply their learning of computation to other contexts.
I LOVE to incorporate error analysis problems as my students learn to use the area model for multiplication. I've found that error analysis can be great for students who are struggling and making common errors, but that it can also provide a challenge for students who have mastered a concept because it makes them think more deeply about the methods we are learning for concepts that came easily to them. Students also enjoy "playing teacher" and trying to figure out what mistakes the "student" has made.
In these differentiated error analysis task cards, students identify one error on each card and multiply whole numbers to find the correct product. The task cards come in 5 leveled sets so that you are ready to meet your students where they are.
4) INCORPORATE REAL-WORLD WORD PROBLEMS
I incorporate multi-step, "real-world relevant" word problems into all of my math concepts. This is typically how students are expected to apply and show their learning on our state test, so I want them to get comfortable with word problems from the start.
In my differentiated math resources, I've included real-world word problem sets that students can relate to. The 4th grade differentiated multiplication word problem sheets contain three versions of leveled word problems with 6 problems each that align with the continuum of multiplication.
5) USE THE MULTIPLICATION CONTINUUM WHEN TEACHING OTHER CONCEPTS
Going forward, I am sure to incorporate these levels for multiplication into other parts of my math content as the year goes on. If your students struggle with multiplication and division now, they may struggle with converting measurements later in the year, for example.
However, if you use your measurement unit as an opportunity to continue moving them along the continuum of mastery (by starting out with 2 by 1, 3 by 1, and 4 by 1 conversion problems and then moving to 2 by 2 and 3 by 2 problems), you will give your students the opportunity to understand measurement concepts at their comfort level. (If you want the resources for differentiation already put together for you, you can find the 4th Grade Measurement Assessments and Practice sheets right here.)
What's the point? Why plan your math teaching like this?
I believe that students who are struggling to master a concept deserve controlled practice to help them achieve mastery of a concept. We need to be the experts who know how to scaffold students' learning.
By understanding math concepts on a continuum of skills, you have an advantage that helps you set up opportunities to scaffold your students to greater mastery of the math concepts you are teaching.
If you are sold on differentiating your math instruction based on a leveled continuum, I highly recommend checking out my differentiated assessments and practice sheets. 4th Grade sets are completed for every standard in the curriculum and more 5th grade assessments are on their way.
You can find the 4th Grade Assessments here in my tpt store or by clicking the photo above.
You can find the 5th Grade Assessments here in my tpt store.
Love this post and want more like it?
Well, I'm glad you feel that way! I am going to continue to break down key math concepts in the 4th and 5th grade curriculum.
Make sure you grab your "Roll and Multiply" Differentiated Dice Game and you will also be notified when I publish a new differentiated math blog post. Happy teaching, passionate differentiator!