Any idea what’s going on here? In case fuzziness is an issue, the question is “What is the biggest multiplication that you know without thinking very much about it?”

Also, I anticipate getting some flack for the wording of this question being potentially confusing. I don’t disagree, necessarily, but I want to offer a partial defense of the question. First, I had been reading the TERC curriculum and they make a point of not saying “multiplication facts,” instead always saying “multiplication combinations.” I haven’t wrapped my head around what makes sense to me, so I punted on the question, figuring that I’d be there to help kids figure out what it meant. And I did, and everybody else offered answers that made sense. Most importantly, the question served it’s purpose: some kids wrote “8 x 8” while others wrote “1,000,000,000,000,000,000 x 10.”

fawn mult


  1. What exactly is the shortcut?
  2. Why does this shortcut seem reasonable?
  3. We’d all agree, I think, that 2 x 6 = 26 is not a result of this kid not understanding what multiplication is. I’ve made that mistake before, and I bet that you have too. So, why is it a  common mistake? What does this say about how a mind works while working on math?

[Any advice on how to tag this, CCSS-wise?]