Multiplication and More

Times Tables and More
In third grade, multiplying and dividing take center stage.
Third grade is an important math year. Your child will learn how to multiply and divide,
essential skills that are the foundation for virtually all future learning with numbers. Much time
will be spent making sure children understand the concepts of multiplication and division, and
committing the 10 times tables and corresponding division facts to memory.
Time to Memorize
The best way to begin teaching multiplication and division is with visual representation
— for example, 3 groups of 2 blocks, 4 rows of 5 students, 6 cups with 3 chips each. This
may seem obvious to you, but probably won’t be to your child. And it’s necessary for
children to understand multiplication and division thoroughly before they attempt to do it.
Divide and Conquer
Understanding the concept behind division can be even harder for kids. As with
multiplication, division facts have to be committed to memory with the aid of
worksheets, flash cards, songs, and rhymes. Learning to recognize fact families — groups
of numbers such as 4, 3, and 12 that create multiplication and division facts in a certain
order — can help a child’s facility with calculations. Teachers also share number tricks
that work for multiplication as well as division, such as the fact that the sum of the digits
in the answers to the 9 times table always equals 9.
Memorizing multiplication and division facts paves the way for the introduction of long
division, where a two- or three-digit number is divided by a one-digit number. This
requires children to remember several steps in a certain order: Divide, Multiply, Subtract,
Check, and Bring Down. Teachers have a variety of acronyms to help students remember
the steps, such as DMSCB, “Does McDonald's Sell Cheese Burgers?”
Fractions and Decimals
Fractions are another challenging area for 8-year-olds to master. Still, with time and
practice, they come to understand that 1/2 of a pizza is the same as 2/4 of a pizza, and
they learn to add and subtract simple fractions in the same fraction family. Decimals are
also introduced, along with the idea that fractions and decimals can represent the same
concept — the part of a whole. This enables children to add, subtract, multiply, and
divide money sums.
Geometry and measurement can also be challenging. Again, memorization is required for
kids to learn to recognize a variety of complex shapes and angles. They also have to learn
to tell time to the nearest minute, and to calculate elapsed time in minutes. For example, a
problem might read: The bus comes at 8:34. If John wakes up at 7:15, how much time
does he have to get ready? This requires good computation skills, facility with telling
time, and number sense.
Prepare to Be Tested
Nationwide standardized testing also begins in earnest in the 3rd grade. No Child Left
Behind requires states to test students beginning in the 3rd grade in math and language
arts. These exams, which vary by state, are designed to make sure schools are meeting
curriculum standards at performance levels set by the states. The challenge is that the
tests are usually administered in the early spring to give time for results to be returned to
the schools before the school year ends. As a result, teachers must make sure they have at
least touched on all the math topics that may appear on the test, even if they don’t have
time to teach the topic fully until afterward.
In addition to multiple-choice questions, there’s likely to be one or more open-ended
math questions, a new trend in testing designed to assess reasoning and problem-solving
skills. Children have to show how they arrived at an answer, using words as well as
numbers. To practice, a class might begin every day with “morning work,” where
students see a math problem on the board when they arrive. After they have a chance to
study it and write out their answers, they discuss their answers and, most important, the
reasoning behind them.