Teaching Multiplication Facts to Special Ed Students

Instructor: Heather Turner

Heather has taught for 10 years as a lead special education teacher and Educational Diagnostician for a district. She has a doctorate in Curriculum Studies.

Knowing multiplication facts is an important building block in learning mathematics. This lesson will discuss strategies on how to teach multiplication facts to students with disabilities (SWDs).

The Importance of Multiplication Facts

What would you do if you wanted to double a recipe to serve more people? Simply doubling each measurement in the recipe will produce enough food to feed twice the number of people. Understanding how to double, or multiply by 2, is fundamental in cooking, which is just one example of the everyday importance of knowing multiplication facts.

For students with disabilities (SWDs), memorizing and understanding multiplication facts can pose a wide range of challenges. These learning challenges can include:

  • Poor cognitive development that impacts overall thinking and reasoning
  • Processing difficulties that lead to poor memory and the inability to focus on the task at hand
  • Behavioral and social-emotional deficits that impact a child's learning

To help SWDs overcome their challenges and master multiplication facts, you need to implement specific strategies.

Strategies for Teaching Fact Fluency to SWDs

Understanding multiplication facts goes beyond simply memorizing facts. Students, especially those with disabilities, need explicit instruction in the concept of multiplication. This means that students should not simply recite that 4 x 4 = 16; rather, students should look at arrays that show how four groups of four equal sixteen.


Now let's look at some other strategies you can use to help your SWDs learn multiplication facts.

Specialized Materials

Specialized materials, such as graph paper and highlighters, can help SWDs organize their math work. For students whose difficulties in attention or spatial thinking negatively impacts how neatly they can write and organize numbers on a page, graph paper helps keep their numbers aligned. For SWDs who need frequent feedback on their progress, you can use highlighters and color coding to record the facts that students most frequently miss and those facts they most often get correct. This type of work allows SWDs to develop ownership in their fact fluency skills.

Feedback and Motivation Strategies

Because SWDs are students who most often experience failure in school, you will want to use teaching practices that allow them to develop ownership and control in their learning. Having students record their progress on fact fluency drills or percentages of facts correct can encourage them and motivate them to improve. Encouragement and motivation are essential for SWDs to persevere in mastering their math facts. Results of math drills can easily be recorded on bar graphs that graphically show how many facts a student masters. These bar graphs become a visual to help students set goals and become motivated.

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