When Do Kids Learn Multiplication?

Learning multiplication is an integral part of elementary education. Although students begin learning about multiplication facts and tables in first grade, each grade level in school is vital for multiplication education. This is because, with each class that passes, the difficulty of multiplicating facts becomes higher and more complex.

In this article, we will explain the multiplication objectives that accompany each grade level in elementary school. We will also tell why these objectives are important.

When Do Kids Learn Multiplication?

First Grade Multiplication

Even though first graders don’t directly learn about multiplication, they learn the skills needed to master multiplication in subsequent grades. The first step to learning how to multiply is to learn simple addition. The essential skill of being able to add numbers together must first be solidified before multiplication can be taught or understood since multiplication in it’s purest form is really just reworded addition.

Why It’s Important:

One of the reasons why understanding addition is so crucial to learning multiplication is because it’s really a simplified version of it. In other words, kids who know what 3+3+3 is are more likely better grasp the concept of 3×3. This is because they are mostly the same math problem, just written in two different ways. 

Learning multiplication in elementary school is all about taking things one step at a time. Allowing children as much time as they need to grasp mathematics principles fully is vital in their development as they grow and go through school. The concept of learning multiplication is no exception. First-graders start small, but learning addition is still a crucial and mandatory part of being successful in multiplication.

Second Grade Multiplication 

Kids in second grade are typically introduced to multiplication facts for the first time. One of the significant ways that kids at this age level are taught multiplication is by memorizing times tables. 

These grids consist of a list of consecutive numbers across the horizontal and vertical axes that show the corresponding multiplied number when traced to their meeting points. For example, if you were to trace a two and a three to its meeting point, the grid would show a six, which is the result of 2×3. Second-grade learners are generally expected to master the two, five, and ten times tables.

Why It’s Important:

As is the case with most fundamental principles in learning, a big part of understanding multiplication is memorizing. Times tables help children remember multiplication facts because they provide a visual aid to education. They also help children understand the relationship between numbers, which is helpful as they move into more advanced math principles in the years to come. 

Perhaps the most critical thing that times tables teach is patterns. When students can understand the trends that numbers make when they are multiplied, they can then apply this knowledge to classes to come, such as algebra and calculus. Since such a big part of elementary education involves creating a solid foundation, it makes sense that starting small with times tables is the best approach for second-year learners.

Third Grade Multiplication

A child entering the third grade should have a solid understanding of math facts up to 10×10. Since this basic knowledge has already been solidified, kids can start learning more complex multiplication facts. They can also be taught different strategies to solve multiplication problems such as carrying numbers, using visual aids, and solving multiplication word problems.

Why It’s Important:

Since multiplication is not a new skill for third graders, their curricula must help build upon their knowledge to get them ready for higher grade levels in their future. 

Learning and mastering new strategies for solving multiplication problems is vital to not only their academic success but also their success after graduation. Multiplication facts will only continue to become more complex as they age, so taking small steps now is a big part of encouraging progress in later years. Introducing visual aids such as the box method for multiplication ensures that each child has a strategy that works for them in their toolbelt.

Developing the skills needed to solve multiplication word problems is a big part of third-graders’ education and for a good reason. Word problems not only reinforce mathematics skills that kids have already learned, but they also help them understand the relationship between what they learn in class and how that knowledge will be used in the real world.

Fourth Grade Multiplication

Fourth-grade multiplication introduces new methods of doing arithmetic, such as mental math and partial products. These strategies are ideal for completing more complicated multiplication problems such as double-digit numbers, not in the 10’s.

Mental math sounds a lot like what it is. Children are taught ways to complete more straightforward multiplication problems in their heads, eliminating the need to perform multiplication work on paper. While students must show their work to display their understanding of multiplication, mental math can make the process quicker and less frustrating.

The partial product strategy refers to the method of multiplying each number by each digit in a different number. Double-digit numbers not ending in “0” are replaced with numbers in the tens group for purposes of this strategy. 

For example, 37×23 would be solved as follows:

(30 x 20) + (30 x 2) + (7 x 20) + (7 x 3)

Why It’s Important:

Having a variety of different ways to approach a multiplication problem is an absolute must for kids in fourth grade. It’s important to remember that each student learns differently and will have a different way of approaching mathematics problems. 

Allowing students to learn multiple different approaches to the same problems is essential for classwide success. This is especially true for long-form multiplication problems that are not easily solved without a calculator. 

Students who struggle in math will appreciate the ability to break a complicated problem down into more unaffected parts. On the other hand, more advanced students can utilize mental math to move through assignments quicker and with less stress or anxiety.

Fifth Grade Multiplication 

When kids enter the fifth grade, they should have a pretty solid understanding of basic and slightly more complicated multiplication problems. Students need to start preparing for middle and high school level math classes at this grade level. Since multiplying double-digit numbers is one of the more difficult problems to solve, fifth graders can expect to continue building upon those skills during this school year.

Why It’s Important:

With middle and high school comes more intense mathematics classes like Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus. Having a firm understanding of how to solve the complex multiplication problems is integral to the success of students moving into these grade levels.

Focusing on reinforcing mathematics terms that have already been learned is a great way to not only refresh students on valuable materials but also offer an avenue for them to get extra help or practice if needed. In addition to this, fifth graders can also expect to handle more complicated word problems, complete mathematics equations with more ease, and to show readiness to move towards middle and high school level mathematics.

Sixth Grade and Beyond Multiplication

Middle school and high school students are introduced to entirely new methods of completing multiplication in more advanced classes than elementary. In these classes, kids learn about completing multiplication problems with unknown factors such as X and Y values. From there, much like primary education, kids continue up the ladder until they reach graduation. By that time, they should have a full understanding of multiplication with unknown factors, three-digit multiplication, and more.

Why It’s Important:

Middle and high school education place a particular emphasis on learning more complex forms of multiplication during class sessions. This is important not only to teaching students more in-depth ways of mathematics but also to help them develop and foster their knowledge about the subject. When kids are encouraged and supported throughout the learning process, they can move through course material with confidence and ease.

The bottom line is, learning isn’t all about memorizing and mastering to pass a test. It’s also about teaching kids how to use their brainpower, overcome adversity, and press forward even when frustrated or overwhelmed. Math multiplication is an excellent tool for students to have for use in their lives, and it’s also important to kids who need the knowledge for success in their college years.

Overall, there is no one right answer when it comes to the “why.” Kids should be given every opportunity to advance their knowledge, one year at a time.


Each grade level in elementary school devotes time to teaching a different level of multiplication. This ensures that kids have plenty of time to master critical parts of the multiplication process before moving on to the next level of difficulty. Ultimately, the goal is to take baby steps toward children being able to master the more complicated and complex multiplication problems they will need to learn in high school and beyond.

About Jessica Phillips

What is the Best Grade to Teach?

What Do Kids Learn in First Grade? Be Prepared