Teacher tip: Use an anchor chart to help with multiplication

As kids progress through elementary school, they learn more math concepts. One of the more challenging ones is multiplication. It’s the first concept where kids have to apply a variety of skills to solve one type of problem.

These skills require an understanding of place value, math facts, organization, and multi-step instructions. And meeting these demands can be harder for kids with learning and thinking differences.

In today’s classrooms, there are lots of visual tools that can help kids become independent learners. An anchor chart is one of them. Having an anchor chart on display can encourage self-advocacy. Kids can refer to it when they’re working on tricky multiplication problems.

If your child struggles with multiplication homework, creating an anchor chart for home could help. The visual reference can help your child reason and problem-solve. Plus, the charts are simple to make.

How to make an anchor chart

You might be asking, “OK, what’s an anchor chart?” It’s probably something you’ve seen before — at back-to-school night or at parent-teacher conferences.

Anchor charts are poster-size pages displayed around the classroom. A math anchor chart usually shows a single problem or concept that can help kids remember a skill or strategy.

There’s no need to make a giant anchor chart for your home. Using letter-size paper is fine. In my classroom, I often made individual anchor charts for kids to keep at their desks and take out as needed.

Here’s how to make one.

  1. On a piece of paper, write a multi-digit multiplication problem. For this example, let’s use 42 × 37, writing the 42 above the 37. It’s helpful to color-code the bottom numbers (for example, in red and blue), so it’s easier for your child to keep the numbers and steps in order.

  2. As in any two-digit multiplication problem, the bottom number in the ones place gets multiplied by both digits of the top number. In this case, the blue 7 is multiplied in the ones place, so the product is written in blue, too.

  3. Since the next step is to multiply in the tens column, put a green 0 in the ones column as a placeholder. Next, the red 3 is multiplied in the tens place and that product is written in red.

  4. After adding the two products together, the answer is written in black, or another color of choice.

The idea of an anchor chart is to show a visual model of the solved problem. That way your child has a road map to follow. It also helps to have graph paper and multiplication charts handy for multiplication homework.

Why graph paper and multiplication charts are key

Multiplication requires organizational skills. If one number is out of place, the whole answer will be wrong. For many students, lining up numbers can be a challenge. If your child has trouble with handwriting, graph paper can be a game-changer. It’s the “secret weapon” of math teachers.

Be sure to have plenty of graph paper at home. You can find free printable graph paper online. The half-inch grid size is best for solving math problems, because one number goes in each box. It’s that simple.

Learning multi-digit multiplication requires kids to know multiplication facts. In other words, they need to fully master times tables. When they don’t, it can be an obstacle to their success.

The good news is that you can print out multiplication charts for free on many websites. Make sure you print one that goes up to the 12’s. Keep the chart out during homework time. Not knowing math facts can slow down the process, but having a chart handy can help your child succeed.

Having the same learning tools at home that children find in the classroom can make a huge difference. Simple visuals like an anchor chart not only help with homework, but also promote success and independence.

—Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the founder of Core Complements, a South Orange, New Jersey–based educational support company that offers tutoring, parent consulting, and teacher development training. Previously, Cohen was a math and language arts teacher for several years. She is a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

See what kids in third, fourth, and fifth grade learn about multiplication. And learn a fun warm-up game to prime your child for math homework.


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