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Teaching Distributive Property Using an Area Model

Math can get boring if you get stuck in the 'worksheet' rut.  The worst thing during math (or any subject, really) is to look into the 'crowd' and see a bunch of blank stares on their lifeless faces.. you know what I'm talking about!!  B.O.R.E.D.

This week, I used a completely simple and effective method to teach my struggling third graders about the distributive property using an area model!

We all know that some of our learners retain info the best when they can manipulate things, hands-on.  First, I prepared these materials for our lesson:

one class set of grid paper copies
enough copies of the formula page for my students
to each complete four examples; there are 10 formulas per page

I also gave each student a blank piece of copy paper... blue happened to be what was on hand that day :)

To start the lesson, I modeled coloring in a rectangle with a highlighter on my own grid paper and asked them to recreate the same rectangle on their paper.  Then, we all cut out the rectangle and glued it onto our blue paper

After the first rectangle was glued, I passed out the copy of the formula and had students glue it underneath the rectangle.  We talked about what we already know about finding area (length times width) and wrote down the formula and the area for the first rectangle.

Next, I shaded in another rectangle with pencil that had the same height as the previous rectangle.  Once again, I asked the students to recreate this rectangle and cut it out.  We glued it onto our blue paper next to the yellow rectangle, and tried to make ONE shape out of the two rectangles.  Then, I used marker to trace around the whole rectangle.

We did four more examples together, and they were actually bummed out when I told them we were out of time!  My students even asked me if we could do this activity again the next day... I'll take it!

As homework, I gave them a practice page from my latest TPT resource: 3rd Grade Math - Common Core Print & Go - 300 PAGE BUNDLE.

As you can see, this practice page aligns perfectly with the activity students completed in class!

Interested in teaching your students about the area model using this hands-on method?  Click HERE to snag all of the printables you have seen in this post, including a freebie from my PRINT & GO Bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Does anyone else have another effective way to teach this concept?  

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  1. Just did this activity with my third graders and they loved it! We guided the first two figures as a class and then let them create the next two. Thanks for the activity!

  2. How awesome! Thanks :)

  3. You don't got an answer sheet

  4. This was the only resource I found on distributive property with area. Thanks a bunch!!!!

  5. This has potential, but I'm afraid it does not show the distributive property. If it did, then it would show that, for example, (4 x 5) + (4 x 2) is the same as 4 x (5 + 2). This activity only finds the area of two joined rectangles.

  6. Thank you for this resource. It was such a great lesson to help my third graders understand the distributive property.