I have two soap boxes to stand on tonight, so please humor me. First up is my CRA soap box. Making the switch from additive thinking (6 + 5) to multiplicative thinking (6 x 5) is a huge transition for students, and it must begin with LOTS of concrete (hands on) experiences. Over time, you need to overlap the concrete, representational, and abstract stages of learning to help students smoothly bridge the distance between concrete and abstract. Look, for example, at the cards below. After selecting these two cards, students can use counters to make 3 groups of 5 (concrete), draw 3 circles with 5 stars in each circle (representational), and write the equation 3 x 5 = 15 (abstract). All three stages of learning in one activity.
The images shown above are from my There's Nothing Alien About Multiplication unit. It includes 4 different games and a themed multiplication division chart. Click here to download one of the games for free!