A little background. K's understanding of multiplication is in the frame of repeated addition. She can count by 2, 5 and 10.
The beginning of the game was quick. K was able to calculate multiples of ten quickly, even commenting "Oh, this is easy". When she got to her first entry in the 9 row, she interpreted the multiplication as 9 groups of whatever number is at the top of the slot. So she saw 9x4 as 4+4+... 9 times. She used this strategy for most of row of 9s, but when she did 9x7, she suddenly switched strategies and added 9 to 54. I asked her about the strategy and she said each spot is 9 more than the one before it. As the game progressed, she used a similar strategy vertically, recognizing that each column had its own progression.
Obviously, I was very pleased, as she was both enjoying the game and working on some important foundation arithmetic. Her strategies revealed a lot about how she interpreted the game. She noticed patterns and created her own meanings. I was also really intrigued by her choosing to consider the multiplication m*n as m groups of size n, but then proceed in rows by adding a group of m.
Overall, the game is a win for math, but I learned that my kid needs to work on her Connect 4 strategy...