5 tips to help grade-schoolers with dyscalculia learn multiplication

ByLexi Walters Wright

Learning multiplication can be tricky for kids with dyscalculia. Studying times tables doesn’t help much if kids don’t understand what they’re trying to memorize. Use these hands-on activities to help your child see how groups of numbers work together.

1. Play with food.

Use pretzels or other snacks to solve simple multiplication problems: “Show me 8 × 3 with your raisins.” Moving tasty items around can help your child develop a concrete understanding that will help with abstract thinking. To multiply fractions, use apple slices to show how the parts fit together as a whole.

You can also ask your child to double or triple a recipe: “What is 2 × ¾ cup of sugar? What is 3 × ¾?” After solving on paper, your child can check the answer by pouring the ¾ cups into a larger measuring cup.

2. Make music.

Ask your child to play sets of notes on a keyboard or another musical instrument. For example, you can say, “Give me two groups of three.” As your child plays the notes, use dots or lines to draw the number groups you hear (||| |||). Then write an equation (2 × 3) and have your child solve it.

You can also reverse the activity: Write a number sentence and let your child draw or “play” the appropriate number of notes to solve it.

3. Shoot hoops.

Add a twist to the basketball game “Around the World.” Use chalk or tape to mark several locations around a basketball hoop. Then have your child try to shoot a certain number of baskets from each spot.

Write the number sentence that describes what your child’s doing. For example, if you’ve marked four spots and your child tries five shots from each, write “4 × 5.” Then have your child solve it. With each round, you can add shot locations and change the number of baskets.

4. Check work using cool tools.

There’s a time and a place for using calculators. After your child does a multiplication homework sheet, encourage your child to use a calculator to check the answers. You can also try hands-on math tools like a multiplication pegboard that you can either make or buy. These kinds of tools may help your child work on mental math.

5. Play games.

Add some math to your next family game night. There are lots of fun board games, online activities, and apps that can help kids practice multiplication facts without them feeling like they’re being drilled. Multiplication-themed board games include Say Cheese, tri-FACTa, and Prime Climb.