Multiplication Flash Cards with Strategies

In this post is a free set of printable multiplication flash cards that combine memorization with strategies.

Discussions about multiplication facts are always coming up in our Facebook group. And arguments for or against memorization of them seem to come up everywhere all the time, too. I remember panicking while waiting to recite my multiplication facts at our teacher's desk, so I get it. But I also know firsthand that not knowing their multiplication facts is a real self-esteem killer for high school students. It's not even the facts themselves; it's where they come up-- factoring quadratics, solving equations. Kids get to thinking they "can't do algebra" when it's actually a multiplication facts issue.

Slightly related is an interesting paragraph about math misconceptions in the 2001 preface of Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos. If you don't know the book (I only found it recently myself), the original book was published back in 1988:

"The first and most pernicious of these misconceptions is that mathematics is nothing more than computation. The truth is that in many areas of the subject, mathematics has as much to do with computation as writing has to do with typing. Algorithms, rules and drill are certainly not unimportant (as a few of the many reformers who took inspiration from the book seem to have claimed), but our mathematical problems result more from insufficient exposure to mathematics as a way of thinking and a set of intricately connected higher-level skills than from an inability to compute."

So why not both? Why not mix memorization with strategy so that kids have a complete toolkit for approaching multiplication when it comes up? 

5 x 4 as 10 x 2 as a multiplication strategy

I've wanted to make a set of printable multiplication flash cards that combined memorization and strategy for a while, and now that my daughter is about that age, I finally sat down to do it. They went through a few iterations, and I am open to suggestions about ways to improve them (just please comment or send me an email).

4 x 8 as 4 x (10 - 2) as a multiplication strategy

On some cards there are no strategies. On most, the distributive property is used to break numbers down in line with the 3rd grade Operations & Algebraic Thinking standard 3.OA.B5. My daughter kept forgetting to distribute to the second term in the parenthesis (as even high schoolers do!) so I added a line at the very bottom reminding how to distribute.

5 x 8 as 10 x 8 / 2 as a multiplication strategy

The very first page of the flash card file is a reminder that the strategy shown on a card is not the only strategy to use. It may not even be the best strategy to use! But it is a strategy that can be used as kids figure out their favorite strategy or begin to memorize their multiplication facts.


You can find the set of printable multiplication flash cards here. If Dropbox is blocked where you are, please just send me an email to shana@scaffoldedmath.com for the PDF file. UPDATE: They're also here in my Google Drive.

number line multiplication word wall reference
number line multiplication word wall reference

A teacher emailed recently asking if I could add a number line multiplication reference to my 3rd grade math word wall, so I added the graphic above. Do you teach number line multiplication? I like how it connects to how we think about multiplication and skip counting. 


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