Build Mastery in Multiplication and Division

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An successful way to increase  multiplication and division skills is with a mastery blast. A mastery blast is an engaging immersion technique to provide students with exciting across-the-curriculum activities to increase understanding, fluency and application of multiplication and division. In third grade I had a  week long multiplication and division mastery blast.  In fourth, fifth and sixth grade I had a multiplication and division mastery blast for several days at the beginning of the school year. Most of each school day was spent doing multiplication and division activities across the curriculum. It turned out to be a highly effective way to build understanding, fluency and application of multiplication and division, which is so crucial for success in math in the intermediate grades.  Here are some ideas for a differentiated and successful multiplication and division mastery blast!

Pretest: It is crucial to find out what students already know, so you can differentiate their activities. The pretest should include facts and word problems. Click here to download a pretest I created. This pretest assesses four different areas:

  1. multiplication with factors 0,1,2,5,10
  2. multiplication with factors 3,4,6,7,8,9
  3. mixed division
  4. word problems

You may decide how long you will give students to complete the pretest, but there is no need to stress some students by setting a timer. It is important to encourage students to do their best, as you are only using the pretest to inform your instruction. I do not return the pretest to the students, and I give it again as a post test to check for progress at the end of the mastery blast. It is very exciting to see the progress students make in just a few days.

Guided Small Groups: Place students in leveled groups based on the pretest and plan small group lessons according to the needs of the students.  Even in third grade I have some students who breeze through the pretest. These students will be working on multiple digit multiplication/division and challenging word problems.

Activities: Provide games, projects and activities for students to complete which will build understanding, fluency and application of multiplication and division. Here are some ideas:

Build Understanding 

  • Make Equal Groups – Have students solve multiplication and division problems with manipulatives then draw and write the solution in their journals. Create some basic word problems then laminate the cards. Write different numbers in the blanks with a wipe off pen depending on the level of the students.


  1. Sally had ______ boxes. She put _______ apples in each box. How many apples are there in all.
  2. There are _____ children on ______buses.  There are the same number of children on each bus. How many children are on each bus?
  3. Create an array with ______ objects and write the division and multiplication equations that describe the array.
  • one equation many ways

  • One equation Many Ways – Have students create a poster showing all the different ways to represent one multiplication or division fact.




Strengthen Fluency  multiplication fact families color

  • Fact Family Flashcards – Have students make and practice fact family triangle flash cards for the facts they need to work on. Click here to download this Fact Family Chart.
  • Skip Counting – Have students use this colored number line to skip count through each factor.
  • Fact Mastery Games – Card games, board games and apps provide repeated fact mastery practice. You can find a variety of fact mastery games on my website.
  • Music and Videos – Search YouTube for a variety of great multiplication songs and videos to get students up and moving as they sing the facts.
  • The Big 15If you take out all the 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 9’s, and 10’s from the fact family chart, big 15there are only 15 left. These are the facts students need to memorize. Have students choose their favorite fact from the big 15 and draw a picture, write a poem or a story about their favorite fact. Have students wear their favorite face on a name tag (factors only, 7×8, 6×7, etc.) During the day everyone must call them by the product.

Real World Applicationsarray city

  • Have students create, write and illustrate their own multiplication and division word problems.
  • Have students create an art project then write equations to go with it such as this Array City project.
  • Have student write how they use multiplication and division in real life.
  • Have students research and report on how different professions use multiplication and division.


Click here for many more multiplication and division activities.



Light Up Math Game for the Holidays

light up mathHere is a super fun holiday math game to practice addition and subtraction facts to 20 or multiplication and division facts to 100.  The only materials needed are crayons, one board game and two moving pieces. Follow my TPT to receive notice of more of these math games for different holidays!

Directions for Two Players:

  1. Each player chooses a different color of crayon.
  2. The first player places the moving pieces on two numbers at the bottom of the page. The player adds or multiplies the numbers and colors a light bulb with the answer.
  3. The next player may move only one moving piece to a different number. The moving pieces may also be on the same number. This player colors the bulb with the answer. Players continue to take turns in this manner.
  4. The goal is to color in five bulbs in a row while blocking the other player from getting five in a row.  If the player wants the 18 bulb, they must figure out which numbers will get them to 18 using their subtraction or division skills.

Click here to download the Light Up Math game boards.

I hope your students enjoy this game!

Please follow me on my various social media sites to receive ideas, inspiration and freebies. You can find links to these sites at

Open-Ended Math Tasks

A powerful, effective and easy way to differentiate in math is through open-ended tasks.  Open-ended math tasks…

  • Do not have one right answer
  • May be completed at different levels and in different ways
  • Empower students to make mathematical decisions
  • Engage students in productive struggle to build understanding
  • Encourage student creativity

Open-ended math tasks are used in guided math lessons where the teacher can support students in their decisions, discussions and sharing of ideas. They are also used at workstations with students working independently or collaborating with a team. The three categories you may use to assess the tasks are:

  • Complexity: The work matches the level of the student
  • Correctness: All math terms, computation and information is correct.
  • Neatness: Completed task is neat and easy to understand

Here are some ways to develop open-ended math tasks that do not take a lot of teacher preparation. Click here to download 12 open-ended math task cards.

  1. Compare and Contrast: Students choose two numbers, shapes, graphs, etc and explain in writing and diagrams how they are alike and different.
  2. What’s the Question? Students are given the answer and then write a word problem with a question for the answer. This task card could be given to students at any grade level.  math task zombies
  3. What’s the Answer and the Question? Students fill in the answer and create a word problem for their answer.math card marbles
  4. Adjust Closed Word Problems: Take closed word problems for your grade level and remove some of the values.

Closed: Taylor has 854 baseball cards, and Kyle has 928.  If Taylor and Kyle combine their baseball cards, how many cards will there be? 

Open-Ended: Taylor has lots of baseball cards, and Kyle has even more cards than Tyler. If Jade and Kyle combine their baseball cards, how many cards will there be?

Closed: Bobby saw 3 cows, 2 horses and 6 chickens at the farm. How many animals did Bobby see at the farm?

Open-Ended: Bobby saw some cows, horses and chickens at the farm. How many animals did Bobby see at the farm? 

Closed: In the fish tank there are 28 fish. One fourth of the fish are goldfish. How many goldfish are in the tank. 

Open-ended:MT orange 5

5. Close or Almost: Using these words on math tasks gives students many more possibilities for their answers.   

Add two numbers where the sum is almost 25. What could the numbers be?                    Multiply two numbers where the product is close to 500. What could the numbers be?

Launching Guided Math

counting 2Teachers work in classrooms filled with a broad diversity of students. Direct math instruction based on a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective with such diverse groups, as students learn in different ways. Differentiated math instruction addresses the varying needs, interests and learning styles of all learners.

Differentiated math instruction takes time, materials, training and the willingness to change from traditional teaching. However, when implemented effectively math will become easier for the teacher and more meaningful for the students. Watch these videos for a wealth of ideas on how to launch successful, differentiated and low stress guided math in your classroom.

Launching Guided Math in Grades K-2 and Grades 3-6




Effective Number Talks in Grades K-5

number talk picsA number talk is a short daily routine that helps students develop mental math skills, practice computational fluency and learn how to talk about math. The students are encouraged to use operations in ways that are meaningful to them, clarify their own thinking and apply number relationships. Number talks are for thinking and talking.          No worksheets required!

Number Talk Steps

  1. The teacher presents a computational problem.
  2. Using mental math skills students silently figure out the answer and put their thumb up when they have the answer.
  3. Three or four students share the strategies they used to arrive at their answers as the teacher writes them down.
  4. The class asks questions and discusses the strategies used. Finally they agree on an answer.

The Roll of the Teacher in Number Talks

  1. Value the thinking of all students.
  2. Select appropriate problems that focus on concepts the students have learned.
  3. Record, clarify and focus on what the students say. Ask questions like How did you figure that out? Who did it another way? Who solved it the same way? Does anyone have any questions for Sally? Sally tell us the first thing you did?
  4. Informally assess students and plan small group instruction where necessary.

Click here to download number talk sentence starters and hand signals.

number talk bubbles    hand signals

Fact Family Pizza

These pizza cards are a great way to learn fact families to 10. Here are some ways to use these cards:

  • Flash Card Game – Stack the pizza cards in a pile with the pizza side up. Students take turns drawing a card and covering one of the numbers. The first player to say the missing number gets to keep the card. When all the cards are gone, the player with the most cards is the winner.
  • Sorting– Students can sort all the cards with the same sum from 2-10. Then they can write all the combinations of ways to make each sum.
  • Recording Page – Have students spread all the cards on the table with the pizza side showing. They will take a card and write the fact family equations on the worksheet.

Click here to download a free set of fact family pizza cards and recording page.


Plastic Egg Math Games

Collect bags of plastic eggs and make some super fun math centers for students in grades K-5. Each game can be adapted for different math levels.

egg math pics.jpg


1. Write problems and answers on plastic poker chips (available at the dollar store).

2. Hide the poker chips under plastic eggs halves and mix them up. 

3. Students play the Memory game by picking up two egg halves. If the numbers are a match, they may keep the poker chips. If not, they cover the numbers and the next player takes a turn

SHAKE AND ROLL                                                                                                                                1. Spray paint once side of giant lima beans.

2. Write numbers on the eggs.

3. Students place that many beans in the egg.

4. Students shake the egg, open it and roll out the beans.

5. Primary students will write down the different ways to make eight by counting how many red and white sides they see on each roll.

6. Intermediate level students will write the fractions they see with each roll.

COIN COUNT                                                                                                                                          1. Write numbers on the eggs.

2. Fill eggs with coins depending on the level of your students.

3. Create an answer sheet with the amount of money in each numbered egg.

4. Students will take an egg, open it  and count the coins. They should write the number of the egg on a sheet of paper and how much money is in the egg. Then they take another egg.

5. When students are done they can check their answers on the answer sheet.

TWIST A FACT                                                                                                                                        1. Write facts on the eggs as shown.

2. Have students work with a partner as they twist one side of the egg and see how quickly they can say the answer.