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MathBait™ Multiplication

Using Symbols

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This activity helps students move from skip counting to multiplication notation as they connect the use of symbols to convey meaning.


Resource Type

Warm Up

Primary Topic








Begin by telling students that we often use symbols to avoid having to write so much. Allow students time to think of a symbol they are familiar with. If needed, explain to students that a symbol is a small picture, drawing, or shape that has a meaning. Students may instantly think of emojis which are a great example. Allow students to share a symbol and what it means. For instance a heart can convey love while a knife and fork might indicate a food court or meals nearby. Signs on the road often have symbols. This can be a quick or in-depth conversation depending on where students take it and time available.

Draw out a large X and tell students this is the symbol for multiples. Wait to use the term "multiplication". Explain that when we see something like 3×4, it is asking us the fourth number or the fourth multiple when counting by 3's. Order matters here. Draw back to the Hide and Seek game from MathBait™ Multiplication Part 2. When we move to row 3 we are counting by 3's. In other words, 3×4 is the same as going down to row 3 and counting over 4 spaces. At this time, we recommend calling the × symbol "ex". This avoids confusion and having to process too much information. Some students may already be familiar with the notation, but for students new to multiplying, allow them time first to practice with the notation before introducing terminology.

Ask students to write 3-4 statements like 3×4 and trade with a partner. Students should find the total for each statement. For instance, in 3×4 students will identify the fourth number said when counting by 3's (12). The goal here is to make multiplication easy and approachable by leaning on existing understanding. We are not doing anything new, but rather finding an easier way to communicate. Writing out "what is the 5th number we say when counting by 4's" is a lot. Now, we can simply write 4×5 to mean the same thing.

If time permits, return to MathBait™ Multiplication Part 2 and play a group round of Hide and Seek. Replace each clue the dragon gives with a multiplication statement. For example, if the dragon says, "I start at 5 and hop 4 spaces", have students identify this as 5×4 and find the value of 20.

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