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Math: "Pictoplication"

About this Daily Classroom Special
Multiplication Code was written by Janice Gordon, Laptop Program Coordinator for Hartford (CT) Public Schools and a Teachers Network web mentor.


Lesson Context:

Multiplication is a basic skill that goes way beyond memorization of the times tables. When students begin to understand the pattern of products and how numbers work, it lays the foundation for pre-algebra. 

One way to promote students’ awareness of number patterns is not to use numbers at all. How do you do this? Using one of the picture fonts in the word processing application (e.g. Wingdings, Webdings or MS Outlook), you can create a “multiplication code” for students to solve. 


  1. Type out the multiplication table in random order using one of the picture fonts. (Remember to switch back to a normal font to write the times and equal signs.) Create an answer key at the bottom of the page for students to assign each character a number as they begin to crack the code. 
  2. Distribute the worksheet to groups of 2-4 students. Assign each group member a role (recorder, reporter, discussion facilitator, timekeeper). 
  3. Have each group work on figuring out which multiplication table is represented by the picture fonts. Let them know that finding out the answer is not the only outcome that you are seeking. Ask them to write one paragraph about how they figured out the code and be prepared to share this with the class. 
  4. Ask students to share with the class the methods they used to crack the code. 
  5. Follow-up: Have students create multiplication codes of their own to exchange with fellow students to solve. 

Note: You may have to create a model code sheet that you discuss with the entire class before asking them to work cooperatively. 

Here is an example of the 8 times table written in Wingdings font. The table is not in order. Can you figure out what each symbol stands for?


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