How To Teach The Distributive Property of Multiplication Using Context, Strategies and Models

A Classroom Problem Based Lesson Sneak Peek

Every teacher has thought it and a good chunk of teachers have even said it out loud:

“Students need to know their math facts!”

While most educators (and parents) have this same belief, differences arise when you dig deeper into how we can best help students achieve this learning.

The Make Math Moments stance on math facts is that we want students to develop fluency and flexibility with all four mathematical operations by building a conceptual understanding that extends to procedural fluency over time.

When it comes to learning multiplication facts with factors of 1 to 10, procedural fluency will only come by giving students the opportunity to use these facts repeatedly over time. Therefore, when we begin multiplying two- and three-digit numbers, we should be leveraging properties of multiplication such as the distributive property in tandem with models such as the array and area model to give students repeated experiences over time.

In this online virtual classroom sneak peek, we will show how we can leverage more opportunities to build fluency and flexibility with multiplication even when the big ideas from the lesson are not directly connected to multiplication. In this lesson, we leverage the use of the distributive property of multiplication to create partial products without the use of a calculator to not only strengthen student fluency and flexibility with multiplication, but to also better understand how partitive division can be thought of as a composed unit ratio.

In particular, you’ll learn:

  1. How you can use your curriculum standards or expectations as a reason to engage in the development of fluency and flexibility with multiplication;

  2. How the distributive property of multiplication can be used as a tool to solve problems related to partitive division, ratios and rates;

  3. How to leverage the area model as a tool for decomposing factors in a multiplication sentence into partial products to make difficult multiplication problems more accessible; and,

  4. Where you can go to use a full problem based math lesson related to this context of “Planting Flowers” for extending multiplication and division to ratios, rates and proportional relationships.

Resources Related To The Video

Want to Run Problem Based Lessons Without a Hitch In Your Classroom?

Head over to the Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework page to dive right in or click below to download the guidebook to take with you!


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Each lesson consists of:

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson consists of a Teacher Guide to lead you step-by-step through the planning process to ensure your lesson runs without a hitch!

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

  • Intentionality of the lesson;
  • A step-by-step walk through of each phase of the lesson;
  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
  • Sample student approaches to assist in anticipating what your students might do;
  • Resources and downloads including Keynote, Powerpoint, Media Files, and Teacher Guide printable PDF; and,
  • Much more!

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson begins with a story, visual, video, or other method to Spark Curiosity through context.

Students will often Notice and Wonder before making an estimate to draw them in and invest in the problem.

After student voice has been heard and acknowledged, we will set students off on a Productive Struggle via a prompt related to the Spark context.

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

  • No calculators are to be used; and,
  • Students are to focus on how they can convince their math community that their solution is valid.

Students are left to engage in a productive struggle as the facilitator circulates to observe and engage in conversation as a means of assessing formatively.

The facilitator is instructed through the Teacher Guide on what specific strategies and models could be used to make connections and consolidate the learning from the lesson.

Often times, animations and walk through videos are provided in the Teacher Guide to assist with planning and delivering the consolidation.

A review image, video, or animation is provided as a conclusion to the task from the lesson.

While this might feel like a natural ending to the context students have been exploring, it is just the beginning as we look to leverage this context via extensions and additional lessons to dig deeper.

At the end of each lesson, consolidation prompts and/or extensions are crafted for students to purposefully practice and demonstrate their current understanding. 

Facilitators are encouraged to collect these consolidation prompts as a means to engage in the assessment process and inform next moves for instruction.

In multi-day units of study, Math Talks are crafted to help build on the thinking from the previous day and build towards the next step in the developmental progression of the concept(s) we are exploring.

Each Math Talk is constructed as a string of related problems that build with intentionality to emerge specific big ideas, strategies, and mathematical models. 

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

Downloadable resources including blackline mastershandouts, printable Tips Sheetsslide shows, and media files do require a Make Math Moments Academy Membership.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!