I was first introduced to Cuisenaire rods and the ideas in this video (and others) through the Miquon math curriculum. The use of the word "of" for multiplication rocked our math world here in this house! It also comes in handy when teaching fractions (think: 1/2 OF 1/3 when reading 1/2 x 1/3).
Cuisenaire rods provide a visual and tactile way for children to learn and REMEMBER how multiplication works. If they forget a math fact, they will be able to work out the answer through distribution strategies that are naturally understood when working with these math blocks.
The multiplication table SHOULD NOT be the way children are introduced to multiplication. Symbols, tables, charts, etc. should always be the last thing introduced after plenty of work with manipulatives. When children struggle in math, it is usually because they do not have a visual framework of what it all means. This method ensures that that won't happen.
Here is an excellent activity to do with preschoolers (or any age when first working with Cuisenaire rods!) to help them internalize more of the structure of our number system. This is the gateway to learning multiplication, division, and fractions. Even very young children can begin to learn about these topics when they are presented this way. You will spend a lot more time teaching these concepts if you only use pencil and paper to introduce them! Cuisenaire rods help children and adults to SEE the patterns inherent in our number system.
In this video, my 4 year old and I work on building a conceptual understanding of multiplication and division. This activity is not only for preschoolers! It is worthwhile to use it with any age at all when trying to teach conceptually. Cuisenaire Rods are the perfect tool to use in aiding understanding of what multiplication and division are all about!
The area model is the perfect way to introduce multiplication to children. It is a clear, visual representation without the abstract symbols getting in the way. For some children (and adults!), it will literally feel like their eyes are being opened to what it all means. I wish I would have been taught this way as a child. I feel like I was taught how to navigate the world of numbers as though I was blind when someone could have just told me to open my eyes and SEE it! Using Cuisenaire Rods in addition to doing multiplication by forming rectangles will bring about clear understanding in children who otherwise would not get it.
Most people are just taught that if you switch the numbers in a multiplication problem, the answer is the same. This video shows you visually in two ways WHY that is true. For the visual and kinesthetic learners out there, those who struggle with dyslexia or dyscalculia, or those who think they will never be able to understand math, this is how it should be taught!