Math Background

Distributive Property of Multiplication: Tips and Tricks

  • Practice the multiplication basic facts by playing a game. Announce two one-digit factors to the class. Then toss a large ball to a student. Have that student announce the product, call out two new factors, and then toss the ball to another student. Continue until each student in the class has had success in reciting a product and catching the ball. You can create a challenge level for the game by announcing factors that are multiples of 10, 100, or 1,000.
  • Provide students with square grid paper (Learning Tool 5 in the Learning Tools Folder) to use when they apply the multiplication algorithm. This will help them align digits in the correct places. You can also use lined paper turned sideways.
  • Use number cubes to generate extra-practice problems. Have one student generate the first factor by rolling the cube once. Have another student generate the second factor by rolling the cube twice for a two-digit number. Have a third student find the product. A fourth student finds the product with the calculator and compares the paper pencil product with the display. When there is a discrepancy, students recalculate, using both methods to discover the source of the error.
  • Have students create posters for the classroom that show models for multiplication by using base-ten blocks. Have other students create posters of the same multiplication by using the algorithm.
  • If you do not have a set of commercially prepared base-ten blocks, you can create paper sets from posterboard or construction paper.
  • Have students work in groups of 3. Announce a different multiplication sentence, such as 4 x 52 = n, for each group to solve. Each group member must choose a different method for finding the solution: modeling with base-ten blocks, multiplication algorithm, repeated addition, or drawing arrays. Students compare answers within their groups. Have them present their solutions and methods to the class.
  • Prepare a set of “Multiplication Bingo” cards by writing nine products in a 3 x 3 grid format. Distribute the cards and announce two factors for students to find the product on their cards. When a student has three products in a row, column, or diagonal, that student wins.
  • Have students create word problems that use the Distributive Property. For example: Sue bought 3 lunch tickets on Monday and 5 lunch tickets on Friday. If each ticket costs $2, how much did she spend in all? Encourage students to write the problem on one side of their paper and its solution on the back. Students exchange papers to check.
  • On large index cards, write exercises that can be solved by using mental math. Include multiples of 10, 100, and 1,000. Also include exercises that have a repeated factor so that they can be solved by applying the Distributive Property. Examples might include: 4 x 400 = n, 80 x 20 = n, or (8 x 13) + (2 x 13) = n.
  • Use different-sized bottle caps to demonstrate the multiplication properties. To show the Commutative Property, place two different caps on a table and switch them back and forth. To show the Associative Property, place three different caps on the table and group the center cap with the first cap. Then group the center cap with the last cap.
  • Search advertisements from newspapers and magazines that may involve multiplication. For example, grocery ads can be used to calculate the total cost of 5 or 10 cans of soup. Carpeting ads can be used to find the total cost of carpeting the classroom. Create a bulletin board with the advertisements and corresponding word problems.

Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 4