How Saying “Times” When Teaching Multiplication Confuses Students

When teaching multiplication, the use of the word “times” can often confuse students. This confusion stems from an ambiguity in the meaning of the word “times” in everyday language versus its use in mathematics.

In everyday language, “times” is often used to indicate repetition or duration. For example, we might say “I went to the store two times” or “I saw her three times last week.” In these contexts, “times” refers to a repeated action or event. However, in mathematics, “times” is used to denote multiplication, which is a different concept altogether.

When we ask students to multiply, we might say something like “What is 3 times 4?” or “Multiply 5 times 2.” This usage of “times” can cause confusion because students may interpret it as indicating repetition rather than multiplication. They may think they need to add the number to itself a certain number of times, rather than perform the multiplication operation.

To avoid this confusion, it can be helpful to use alternative language when teaching multiplication. Instead of saying “times,” we can use phrases like “multiply by” or “times by.” For example, we might say “What is 3 multiplied by 4?” or “Multiply 5 by 2.” This clarifies that we are asking for a multiplication operation, rather than a repeated addition.

Using clear and unambiguous language when teaching multiplication can help students grasp the concept more easily and avoid common misconceptions. By being mindful of the potential confusion caused by the word “times,” teachers can create a clearer and more effective learning experience for their students.

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