I was first introduced to Cuisenaire Rods and the ideas in this free math tutoring video (and others) through the Miquon math curriculum. The use of the word “of” for multiplication rocked our math world here in this house! It also comes in handy when teaching fractions (think: 1/2 OF 1/3 when reading 1/2 x 1/3).
Cuisenaire Rods provide a visual and tactile way for children to learn and REMEMBER how multiplication works. If they forget a math fact, they will be able to work out the answer through distribution strategies that are naturally understood when working with these math blocks.
The multiplication table SHOULD NOT be the way children are introduced to multiplication. Symbols, tables, charts, etc. should always be the last thing introduced after plenty of work with manipulatives. When children struggle in math, it is usually because they do not have a visual framework of what it all means. This method ensures that that won’t happen.