Have your students learned their multiplication facts? Challenge them to a game of Factor Pair Up and let them show off their skills. This two-player game combines factors and products with strategic planning. The game works equally well with the entire class or one on one. There’s no time-limit so the key to winning is making good, mathematical decisions. Once your students master Factor Pair Up, follow up with a few rounds of Pathways by Marilyn Burns. Like Factor Pair Up, this game provides an engaging way for students to continue their exploration of multiplication. Pathways can be played on paper or laminated boards and is very effective as a classroom math station.

Factor Pair Up is played on a square board. Each small square contains a number that is the product of two factors. One factor is predetermined by the opponent. The second factor is up to the player. The product of the two factors is then covered with a disc. The goal is to capture three or four products in a line before your opponent does.

Factor Pair Up has options that can accommodate students with a range of ability. There are two board sizes, a 6x6 grid that includes factors 1 through 9 and a 5x5 grid that includes factors 1 through 7. Another option alters an important rule of the game. In the advanced version, a player may capture an opponent’s product. This can lead to greater planning and strategy. In the standard game, products may only be captured once. You can further differentiate your instruction by giving students a multiplication chart to use.

Player 1 or Player 2? Who will find the winning clue?

This game is best played when the concept of multiplication is well understood and your students are comfortable with mental computation. By the middle of 3rd grade math, students will be able to use the smaller game board. More advanced students will enjoy working with larger products as well as the block and capture rule. Factor Pair Up will help your students learn more challenging multiplication facts as well as build automaticity. You can use the strategic components of the game to ask questions that will lead to some thoughtful discussions.

• Is there any advantage to going first? Why or why not?
• How did you decide which product to capture first?
• Which rule did you prefer, capturing or not capturing your opponent’s product? Why?

Marilyn Burns uses this technique quite skillfully in her Factor Game lesson. I particularly like the way she explains how good questions can lead to productive whole group math discussions.

Factor Pair Up has many connections to the Common Core standards for grades 3 through 5 and covers topics in both Operations and Algebraic Thinking and Number and Operations in Base Ten. Some of the key standards are:

• Multiply and divide within 100 (3rd grade)
• Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems (4th grade)
• Gain familiarity with factors and multiples (grade 4)
• Generate and analyze patterns (5th grade)