Teaching the Distributive Property of Multiplication to 3rd graders is tough. Students struggle with understanding the concept (associative property too!). I always begin our work with area models so students can visually see the model being decomposed into smaller groups. I have an in-depth blog post that shows how I introduce the Distributive Property of Multiplication using area models that walks through my lesson step-by-step. After that initial introduction, I work with larger numbers than my curriculum suggests in order to do 2-digit by 1-digit multiplication. I find that students better understand the distributive property when they understand why they’re decomposing a number. Larger numbers help with that even though that’s a 4th grade standard, rather than 3rd grade. I find this also helps reinforce place value as students work through the equations. This year, we moved our work with the associative and distributive properties to later in the year and they fell right before Christmas break. It was the perfect opportunity to do a fun and relevant Christmas Distributive Property craftivity!
Distributive Property Trees
These Distributive Property Trees, or Distribu-trees as I called them, have 3 different parts: the trunk to show the expression to be solved, the body to show the decomposition of the expression into smaller parts, and the star for the product. Because we’re still very much practicing this concept, I had students do their work on dry erase boards first. This way, I could do any on-the-spot reteaching I needed.
I gave students several choices. They chose the expression they were going to solve within parameters. They also were able to decide how many components would be in their equations. In the future, I would remove that choice for students. That was where my students had the most difficulty. It’s too complex of a skill, that they have not yet mastered, to add that variable. Next time, I’ll stick with 3 parts as that’s what I have for the blacklines.
Though, despite some of that difficulty, I absolutely love the way the trees turned out in the end. It was easy to scaffold for those students that needed additional supports. I also love that it was super meaningful for what we’re studying right now, and provided a way to practice what we’ve learned while bringing in some fun and Christmas decorations.
If you’re looking for your own Christmas Distributive Property craftivity or project, you can download my Distribu-trees project by filling out the form below. It will be emailed to you immediately after email confirmation. It’s a fun math Christmas project for December!