The Magical Minds have a pretty good understanding of what multiplication is. They know it has to do with groups of the same number. It is adding the same number over and over again. It is skip counting.
Building arrays is another way we explore multiplication. An array is a set of objects placed in rows and columns. Because we know the brain remembers connections, this is one more way we help our brain learn and remember multiplication facts. This manipulation of objects helps the visual, kinesthetic and naturalistic learners understand multiplication on a deeper and more meaningful level.
Arrays also help us understand factors and division. Our class hasn’t gotten to the division discussion, but we are digging deep into the idea of factoring. Last week I used a lesson form NCTM‘s site, Illuminations where the third graders created factor posters. They first built and drew the arrays, and then used a “factor rainbow” to figure out all the numbers we can skip count to get to our product.
This study of arrays will also come in handy when we begin our measurement unit. Arrays are simply width and length.