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  • Writer's pictureAmy Wung Tsao

Multiply Their Curiosity! (Multiplication, Division, and Fractions)

Updated: Jan 21


A Note from Amy

Cover illustration of a grandmother driving an older car, with her granddaughter in the back seat and luggage strapped to the roof. There is a sunrise, birds in the sky, and a grassy tree-lined landscape in the background. There is long grass in the foreground.

Ready or not, my kids are finishing their last week of school! We have plenty of fun planned, but no major road trips this summer break. Perhaps we are still recovering from the epic road trip two summers ago from Seattle to San Diego to Dallas, then back to Seattle. I don’t think we’ll ever outdo that one!


Speaking of road trips, here's a gorgeous book about noticing beautiful things. And it's a counting book too! May it inspire you and the people you are traveling with this season.

 

Multiplication, Division, and Fractions STEM resources


“Possibilities don’t add up, they multiply.”

― economist Paul Romer



Bold capitalized text reading “There is a fine line between Numerator and Denominator”, with the words Numerator and Denominator written in fraction format with a line between them.
Credit: Desmos.com

This month is all about multiplication, division, and fractions. Yes, these are typically taught around 3rd grade. But any toddler sharing a cookie understands breaking something into smaller, equal groups. Here are my favorite videos, books, and activities that beautifully engage preschoolers and elementary age kids in those very concepts!


(Just a reminder - I am never paid to mention any of these STEM resources; there are no affiliate links.)


 

Videos


From BBC


Sorry not sorry, I’m recommending my beloved Numberblocks again this month! Above is their 1 hour compilation video that teaches the whole multiplication table.


Numberblocks also has plenty for younger kids who don’t need to know their times tables yet! In Season 2, as they’re still teaching how to count to 10, they are also introducing concepts like doubling, and how 9 is made up of three groups of 3.


In Season 3, they start getting more explicit with episode 3 “The Way of the Rectangle”, showing how 6, 8, and 12 can form different rectangle shapes. Then in episode 4 “Ride the Rays” the numberblocks form rectangles that are 2-blocks wide, and then 3-blocks wide, etc. After that episode, the numberblocks constantly change shape to visually show different grouping possibilities. And each episode is just 5 minutes!



From Tiny Tunes (YouTube)


Skip counting is not “1, 2, skip a few, 100!” It’s actually counting by 2’s, or 3’s, which is basically the multiplication table! This YouTube channel is full of math-themed music videos full of mesmerizing graphics and set to folk-pop music. It’s not going to appeal to every kid, but both my boys adore this channel.


 

Books

By Dan Santat & Mo Willems

Cover illustration of cartoonish purple hippo, alligator, orange squirrel, and blue squirrel with glasses, clustered together at a table and staring intensely at a plate of 3 chocolate chip cookies.

I have read this book SO many times, and I still love it deeply! Chaos ensues when 4 friends try to share 3 cookies. Younger kids can keep count as Hippo nervously breaks the cookies into smaller and smaller pieces. For older children, it’s a hilarious demonstration of fractions. For grown ups reading out loud, it’s a chance to trot out your most dramatic acting skills!


A similar book with a more classic feel is The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins. A plate full of cookies must be re-distributed every time a new guest shows up. If the manic humor of Cookie Fiasco is a bit too much, this book might be more up your alley!




By Matthew McElligott

Cover illustration of a pleased lion’s face looking down at a table topped with crumbs and one lone ant facing the lion.

At Lion’s dinner party, each animal cuts half of the cake for themselves before passing what remains to the next guest. After halving 8 times, only a crumb remains for Ant and Lion to share!


Ant promises to bake a new cake for Lion. But Beetle, not wanting to be outdone, offers to bake 2 new cakes. Frog promises to bake twice as many as that! All my kids love how quickly the math gets out of control!





By Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet


Cover illustration entirely covered in a crowd of black and white penguins, with a family of four dressed in orange sticking out in the middle of the crowd. The two parents and one child look distressed, but one child is high-fiving a penguin.

Mysteriously, a new penguin arrives at this family’s door every day. “After the first three-digit number, our problems really began.” The family tries in vain to organize them (stack 15 in a pyramid or in dozens like eggs?), feed them (2.5 lbs of fish per penguin per day), and deal with the smell (poorly). This book is just absurd in all the best ways!










 

Activities


Pizza with cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and green herbs on a dark wood surface. One slice has been cut out and slightly pulled away from the rest of the pizza.
Credit: Vit Ch via UnSplash

Play (math) with food!

Get inspired by The Cookie Fiasco! Cut your sandwiches and pizzas into equal fractions. Count out 12 crackers or jellybeans and have kids split them up 2 ways. But wait, there’s stuffed animals who want some crackers too, so now we have to split the 12 crackers 3 ways, 4 ways, 6 ways…


It doesn’t have to be a big elaborate math lesson. Any snack time, meal time, or tea party is an opportunity to pop in a math question!


Two colored pencils and two dice next to a paper. The paper is titled “Multiplication Squares”, filled with a grid of numbers and dots.

From Games 4 Gains


This game is perfect for memorizing times tables up to 6x6. It’s based on the classic Dot and Boxes game. You roll two dice, multiply them together, and draw a line next to that number. If your line closes a square, you fill in the square with your color. The winner is whoever has captured the most squares!


My two big kids loved playing this with each other. At first, only my oldest could multiply. But she would help her younger brother with the multiplication part and he would do the rest. (This is also the story of how my middle kid unintentionally learned his times tables before he started kindergarten. Oops.)

 

I hope you feel empowered to share some math fun with the kids in your life!

Next month I’ll be wrapping up this math series with geometry!


Until then, have fun lighting sparks of curiosity!

Amy Wung Tsao

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