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Q&A #12139


Distributive property using manipulatives

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From: Suzanne A. (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Sep 26, 2003 at 07:04:18
Subject: Re: Distributive property using manipulatives

Dear Linda,

I'm not sure which manipulatives you have available, but let's assume 
that you have something that can be used to represent units. Here's
an example of what I'm thinking:    2(3 + 4) = 2x3 + 2x4    

If you start with 

    3 represented by   x x x 
    4 represented by   x x x x

and since you have 2 groups you also have

    3 represented by   x x x
    4 represented by   x x x x 

and altogether that is:

     x x x x x x x
     x x x x x x x       for a total of 14.

Can we use those 14 manipulative pieces and arrange them to show
2x3 + 2x4? What does that mean? Two groups of three and two groups of 
four?

     x x x      x x x x
     x x x      x x x x   

Hmmm....compare! How many are there?

In my mind the underlying ideas of addition and multiplication are quite
important to understand the distributive property. So, you might need
to work just on that first. Can your students show simple addition and
multiplication concepts with the manipulatives? Once you know they
can, then going on to demonstrating the distributive property might not
be too difficult.

I hope that idea is useful.

 -Suzanne A., for the T2T service


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