“The Distributive Property” is usually a term that gets filed under “Useless Information” in most people’s brains because they are simply told to memorize it and not shown what it means. This free math tutoring video shows you what it’s all about and why even little kids can understand it.

I use Cuisenaire Rods to explain the concept. You could also use other manipulatives or even graph paper. It is very important that students actually understand what they are doing in mathematics. If they are continuously expected to memorize formulas for things they don’t understand, the bridge will crumble at some point for many of them. There needs to be connection to reality. Using these math blocks establishes that reality.

The distributive property of multiplication enables children and adults to easily calculate multiplication facts – even if they’ve forgotten them because it’s been 30 years since elementary school! Oftentimes, skip counting and flashcard drill (or something similar) is the only way multiplication is taught in schools. Neither of these provides as clear of an understanding of our number system or how numbers relate as the distributive property. Using a visual model and manipulatives like Cuisenaire Rods provides a way for children to interact with multiplication in a whole new way.

An easy way to think of the distributive property is to just imagine (or actually do it with the Cuisenaire Rods) breaking numbers into chunks that are easier to calculate. This is represented quite clearly in this free math tutoring video where I introduce a little girl to the concept. Not all children will catch on this quickly, but I can guarantee they will catch on quicker with this method than with methods that emphasize drilling and memorization over understanding.