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What are multiplication arrays? (And how to practise them)

'What are multiplication arrays' plus picture of 5 x 4 arrays

Multiplications arrays! This post will explain what they are, and give you ideas for how you can help your child practise them.

If your child is starting to learn multiplication at school, then at some point they will be introduced to multiplication arrays.

You may not really have heard of them before, or know what the point of them even is, but trust me when I say, they’re pretty straightforward.

This post will explain what they are and show you some examples. It will also give you ideas of how you can help your child practise this multiplication concept.

So, without further ado, let’s get going.

Learning multiplication

Before we look at arrays, let’s just backtrack for a second and look at the different stages of learning multiplication.

When teaching multiplication, we would normally start with the idea of repeated addition.

So, for example, here we have the number sentence 3 x 4 = 12 shown as repeated addition:

3 x 4 shown as repeated addition

You start with 4 stars. Then add another 4 stars. Then another 4 stars. How many stars do you have in total? 12.

We can also look at multiplication in terms of equal groups.

For example, we can show 3 x 4 = 12 like this:

3 x 4 shown as equal groups multiplication

We have 3 groups of stars, with 4 stars in each group. That makes 12 stars together in total.

Related: What is a multiplication chart? (And how to use one)

Arrays

So, once we have introduced multiplication as repeated addition or equal groups, the next logical step is to introduce arrays.

An array is basically a number of objects or pictures arranged in rows and columns.

Let me show you by using our number sentence 3 x 4 = 12.

To show this number sentence as an array, let’s just arrange the stars in 3 rows of 4, instead of groups. Like this:

3 x 4 multiplication array

So as you can see, our 3 x 4 array here is basically our 3 groups of 4 stars, but instead arranged in rows and columns.

Need more examples? No problem!

Let’s take 5 x 6.

To show 5 x 6 as an array, we would need to arrange the stars in 5 rows. Each row would have 6 stars in like this:

5 x 6 multiplication array

Altogether there are 30 stars, so our number sentence would be 5 x 6 = 30.

One more example for good luck

Let’s take 2 x 8.

To show 2 x 8 as an array, let’s arrange the stars in 2 rows of 8 stars.

2 x 8 multiplication array

There are 16 stars altogether. So we know that 2 x 8 = 16.

Related post: Dinosaur colour-by-number worksheets for multiplication and division facts

So, why is this all useful, you may ask?

Well, an array helps you to understand multiplication by visualising it.  It makes sense of your times tables.  

For example, an array shows that, when multiplying two numbers together, the order of those numbers can be switched around.

By way of an example, let’s take a look at two arrays: 2 x 4 and 4 x 2 .

2 x 4 and 4 x 2 arrays, both made of 8 stars total

If we look at the array for 2 x 4, it’s made up of 2 rows of 4 stars.

The 4 x 2 array is made up of 4 rows of 2 stars.

In each array there are 8 stars altogether.

So we can see that 2 x 4 = 8 and that 4 x 2 = 8.

The 2 and the 4 are interchangeable.

This realisation is so helpful to children. For example, let’s say you wanted to calculate 5 x 8. Don’t know your 8 times table? No problem. Maybe you know your 5s and can work out 8 x 5 instead.

Related post: free printable multiplication tables (1x to 10x)

How should my child practise multiplication arrays?

So, if you are looking for some activities to help you child practise arrays, here are some suggestions.

1. Pool noodle arrays

Hands-on learning is great when learning math. For some children, adding an interactive, hands-on aspect to learning math really helps the concepts stick.

For many, it also makes math more enjoyable and less scary.

So, what about a practical arrays-related activity, using pool noodles, no less?

Pool noodles are super cheap and can be really useful for math. For this activity, I took 1 pool noodle and cut it into thin slices about 1 inch thick.

Apart from the pool noodle pieces, all you need is a pencil and paper.

To do this activity, write an array on the paper, for example 3 x 3. Then challenge your child to make that array with the pool noodle slices like so:

3 x 3 array made from cut up pool noodle pieces

If you don’t have a pool noodle, you could make arrays with lots of other items, such as little balls of playdough, LEGO bricks, marshmallows or counting bears (basically anything you have lots of, that won’t roll away when you place them on a flat surface).

2. Look out for real life multiplication arrays

One fun thing to do is to keep an eye out for real life multiplication arrays.

For example, while writing this post, I am conscious of a basket of clean laundry waiting in a basket on the floor nearby, waiting to be ironed (not my favourite activity). As it happens, this laundry basket has a very fine multiplication array on it. A 4 x 5 array to be precise.

Take a look:

laundry basked 4 x 5 array

In fact, if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find there are a fair few arrays around and about.

For example, a 2 x 6 array made of eggs:

2 x 6 egg box array

A 3 x 4 array on a muffin tin:

3 x 4 muffin tin array

A 2 x 2 LEGO brick array:

2 x 2 LEGO brick array

And, if you look closely, a 3 x 5 array on the fence:

3 x 5 array in wood fence

Once you keep an eye out for them, it would seem that multiplication arrays are actually all over the place.

Related: Real life multiplication array task cards

3. Free multiplication arrays matching activity

And finally, I have a free matching activity for practising multiplication arrays for you.

This activity involves matching 10 multiplication array picture cards to the correct number cards. It’s fun, colourful and great for practising arrays.

multiplication array matching activity 2 x 8

Simply download the free printable, cut out all the cards and away you go!

arrays matching activity answer key

Click HERE to find out more and download your free matching activity.

So there we have it! I hope this post has shed some light on multiplication arrays and given you some ideas for simple ways to practise them. Thanks for reading.

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What are multiplication arrays

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