Strategies for mental multiplication

Today I taught a really successful 3 hour lesson on strategies for working out mental multiplication. Here’s how it went:

1.Ss fill in a blank 0 -12 times table grid. This is then used throughout the lesson as a reference sheet.

2.Ss then fill in the jumbled up grid at the bottom of the worksheet

3.Card match activity. Give each student a set of cards matched to their ability level. Ss then match the sum e.g 6 x 6 with the answer, 36

4.Discuss how people use a variety of ways for working out mental multiplication e.g counting up on their fingers, a times table grid, long multiplication etc

5.Split the class into pairs/small groups. Give each group a different strategy to research and present to the class. Strategies could include; traditional/long multiplication, grid method, lattice method, finger tricks.

6.Ss present their findings and explain how to use the method to the rest of the class. (My students really didn’t want to have to get up and speak in front of the rest of the class so instead they created A1 size posters and the students moved around the class looking at them whilst I explained the content)

7.Ss complete a worksheet for each of the following methods: grid, lattice and traditional/long




8.Ss complete a variety of mental multiplication based worksheets

Marshmallow and spaghetti towers

Marshmallow and spaghetti towers is a fun and cost-effective team building task. The objective for the task is for students to construct a tower as high as possible using only the materials provided.

Here are a few photos of my class completing the activity today:


An instructions and help booklet can be found at


Lesson starter – flat numbers

I found this idea on Jules Shares Teaching and liked the idea so much that I thought I’d share it with you. It’s a numeracy puzzle that looks at the numbers involved when painting doors. Therefore it is an ideal resource for embedding in Painting and Decorating courses.

The question posed to the students was:

A new block of 100 flats has been built.

Dave has to paint the numbers from 1 to 100 on the doors.                                                                                                          

How many times will he have to paint the number 9?

Although when Julie used this puzzle with her class she looked at the number 9 the puzzle would work with any number in the 1-9 range.I haven’t tried this idea out yet but Julie found that ‘A lot of learners say 11 as they do not count 90, 91, 92 and so on as they have counted up from 9, 19, 29 and their brain gets into a pattern. Then when they do realise they get to 19 and forget the number 99 has two 9′s in it. The answer is 20. This creates discussion regarding writing information down, so that learners can visualise what they are doing.’

Julie teaches Functional Skills maths, English and ICT at Barnsley College. Her blog is full of useful ideas for the SFL classroom and is well worth a read.

Collabrotive, social learning – Lino It and Answer Garden

Today I attended a workshop session about free online software packages that can be used to enhance learning in the classroom.  Lino It and Answer Garden were two collaborative software packages that were presented. They are both suitable for the SFL classroom as the software can be used to encourage  learners to share their opinions and knowledge in a non-judgemental and anonymous way.

Lino It

Lino It is a sticky note based web page that can be used to post memos, ideas, and photos anywhere on an online web canvas.

Why do earthquakes happen?

You could use the software as a student focused starter or  plenary. One of the ways you could do this would be to post a question in the corner of the canvas and then hand the activity over to the students to post replies, for example you could ask the students in what situations have you wrote an email. The students might then reply, to complain about extra charges on a phone bill, to tell a friend some good news or to inform my tutor that I won’t be in for a few days due to sickness.

As you can change the colour of the post-it notes it’s easy to add an element of competition to the activity as you could assign a different colour per team, this means that you could also have girls (yellow post-it notes) vs boys (green post it-notes) competition. The team that comes up with the most replies could win a prize such as choosing the next question or activity.

The software is also useful as an assessment tool. It could be used at the start of a session to assess the learning and knowledge retention of previous lessons, it could be used at the end of the lesson to check understanding and if you asked the students questions such as did you enjoy this lesson, what did you think about the lesson materials it could also be used as an evaluation tool to assess how well the lesson has gone.

Although you can use the software without setting up an account I don’t recommend using the software with your learners without one. By setting up an account you can retain control of the activity once it has been passed onto your learners as you can remove any  post that you do not approve of. It is also a good idea to set up different groups for different classes as that way you can keep the canvases private and prevent different classes from cheating by copying the other groups notes.

Answer Garden

Answer Garden is similar to Lino though it is a lot simpler to use. Once you open up the software click on create, post a question, give your students the url address and once they open the web page they are able to post replies.

One of the ways that this could be used in the SFL classroom would be to teach about tallies. The students could post a question e.g what is your favourite mobile phone brand? Share the web page with their class mates and then once all of the responses are in, use the information for creating tallies of how many times each brand appears.