My oldest daughter is in second grade this year. She’s eager to start learning multiplication, and it will be one of the new skills she works on this year. As we’ve always done with learning activities, I want to make sure we use a hands-on approach. For teaching multiplication it can be extremely helpful to use arrays. In this ping pong arrays multiplication activity, we combine a little bit of science and a little bit of math for some fun hands-on learning.
- Styrofoam (at least 1 inch thick)
- Golf Tees
- Ping Pong Balls (Tip: If ping pong balls are too difficult for your child to balance, try smaller marbles.)
Depending on the size of your styrofoam and the size of your ping pong balls I recommend evenly spacing the golf tees in columns and rows. Ours are approximately 1.5 inches apart for this activity.
Arrays are visual representations shown in columns and rows. They are a concrete way to show repeated addition and multiplication. Being able to visually see these concepts helps children develop a deeper understanding before they move on to doing these actions mentally.
To describe an array you first name the number of rows in the array, then the number of columns. So in the picture below (if we rotate it just a bit right) we see a 3 by 2 array that shows 2+2+2 (repeated addition) or 3×2 (multiplication).
For a more detailed description of arrays and teaching them to children check out this resource.
Teaching with Arrays
As a first introduction at home or in class I like to let kids freely explore with the materials. Then you can progress into more directed learning.
With this set you can:
- Have kids set up an array of their choice then describe (or record) the related multiplication fact.
- Verbally give kids a multiplication fact and have them show it as an array.
- Set out these materials with multiplication flash cards and let kids practice making arrays indpendently. If you’d like, you can use graph paper to have them show a recording as a way to check for understanding.