Teachers use arrays to show students a visual representation of multiplication by arranging objects or pictures in rows and columns with specific numbers. To demonstrate 3 x 4 = 12, the teacher gives students an example such as three groups of children each receiving four apples. The array demonstrating this is a picture of 12 apples in three rows and four columns.
To reinforce concepts and help with memorization, the teacher may have students create their own arrays. Prior to requiring students to memorize the multiplication tables, the teacher may have them create an array in which they add one new column at a time without changing the number of rows. This provides them with a mental image to draw on when learning the times table for each number. An additional use for arrays is when students begin to multiply larger numbers. The students can use blank arrays to break the numbers down into smaller amounts they can work with more easily.
The use of different models to demonstrate multiplication helps children understand the underlying concept and provides a method they can use to solve problems. It also visually demonstrates how multiplication is a form of repeated addition and lays a foundation for students to understand the relationship between multiplication and division.