This year, after years at the middle school level, I made the move back down to elementary school. I was excited for the chance to once again teach all the core subjects and to build a stronger community with my self-contained classroom students.

At the end of the summer I joined my new colleagues for a retreat to plan and discuss the coming year. One of the activities we participated in involved having discussions with the grade levels above and below us about the skills students need most as they entered our classroom. The one skill that seemed to permeate multiple grade levels was the need for knowing basic multiplication facts. It was evident from the discussion that from 3rd grade on, the curriculum relied on a student’s ability to quickly recall basic multiplication facts and that students who did not obtain this skill by 4th grade were quickly falling behind.

When I began working with my 5th grade students this year, I saw just how true these sentiments were. Some of my students came equipped with multiplication mastery but many, too many, did not, making everything from fractions to calculating the area of a square difficult. I sent home practice worksheets, assigned flashcards, and even gave weekly timed multiplication tests but the fact remained, those who knew it, knew it and those who didn’t weren’t investing the time needed to get it.

While flash cards and practice worksheets are not fan favorites in my classroom, learning games are which is how the Multiplication Battle Game was created. (It started as a sneaky way to fill an extra ten minutes before recess and get kiddos to fill out their blank multiplication charts.) This is how the game works:

Students build a game board that consists of a file folder, a completed multiplication chart, and a blank multiplication chart.

One student attaches their game board to another students game board using binder clips. The binder clips act as a support so that students can sit facing each other while viewing their board.

Each student then covers 5-7 math facts on their top board (the completed multiplication chart). You can do this using sticky notes cut into small squares. These become their “hidden spots.”

To play the game, each player takes turns stating a math fact with the answer. For example, Player 1 might say “2 x 4 = 8.” Player 1 then marks the answer in the correct spot on their blank game board. Once player 1 has written down their math fact, player 2 will announce whether or not this was a hidden spot on player 2’s top board. If it is, player 1 can mark this on their blank chart with an ‘X.’

Player 2 will go next, following the same steps as player 1. Play continues back and forth until one person discovers all of their opponents hidden facts.

The first person to find all of their opponents marked spots wins!

Having students complete the blank multiplication chart as they play is the real key here as this is the step that provides students with the repetitive practice they need. As extensions to the activity, I have had students complete the rest of their charts as homework after the games are over and I have even encouraged students to teach and play the game at home, offering it as a homework menu choice.

The outcome of incorporating the game into my classroom has been positive. Yes, there are still students who struggle but the idea of ‘practicing math facts’ has a lighter tone in the classroom now. But the best result? Watching one student in particular light up as he recalls math facts automatically, a skill he didn’t have previously. The smile on his face as he fills with pride and states math facts with ease is worth every moment in the classroom!

Interested in trying the game in your classroom? Find detailed instructions and resources here.