Opening the door to multiplication

My daughter seems to enjoy exploring word problems, at her pace, at home. The more seahorses, fairies and cardinals involved, the better. We read a problem. Then, off she goes with her legos, marbles, base-ten blocks, paper, markers, crayons, any tools she may feel like using. It is like observing at home, one of the kids from the books and literature I read as a graduate student in Math Elementary Education. I sure enjoy that.

Young children can intuitively solve many different kind of problems. I have read it, I have seen it. Give two cookies to my 3 year old son to share equally with his sister, and he will do it : “One for me, and one for you !”. If you give him more cookies, he may not be able to count them all, but still he will be able to apply the same strategy “one for me, and one for you. One for me, and one for you. One for me, and one for you”. So at home, I try to give my children all kind of opportunities to explore problems. But this Summer, focused on the K standards with Rosie, I somehow forgot to do so.  A few weeks ago, though, I had a good reminder.

Working on an assignment for my Master, I was watching a video of a teacher discussing a word problem with her class. A 2-step problem involving a multiplicationRosie, who had mostly explored addition and subtraction problems, was nearby, doing her things. She stopped, came to me, and whispered the answer in my ear. Intrigued, to say the least, I asked her to solve another, similar, problem.

Emily has 5 bags of sparkly marbles. In each bag, there are 10 marbles. Under her bed, she also finds 3 more marbles. How many marbles does Emily have altogether?


Representing the problem, with a mixture of drawings and symbols, she solved it (see picture on the right). A first bag with 10 dots representing 10 marbles, four more bags with the number 10 “because it is faster than drawing”, a representation of the bed with the 3 additional marbles. Count by 10, add 3 more. Solved. Did she write a multiplication equation? Of course, not. Symbols associated to multiplication will come later on. Still, she came up with a strategy to solve the problem, having fun exploring another kind of operation.

Time to extend my range of problems ! And share them with you. Because if my child is ready for more, your child may very well be too.

Come back on Monday, 8/24, for the beginning of another exciting journey. Spread the word, and bring a friend !

Would love to hear from you !

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