Box Multiplication: Showing the Distributive Property

By: Mary Kienstra on: March 9, 2017  in: algebra, distributive property, Math,

Box multiplication makes multiplying double digits concrete to young mathematicians.  Instead of wondering where to put the digits and why they go there, kids are thinking of the area model of multiplication and filling in the boxes.  The best thing about box multiplication is how easily it translates to the distributive property.


Box multiplication is a visual way for third graders to learn double digit multiplication.


Learning to multiply double digit numbers is challenging for kids.  Even when they know their facts well (and that is a big assumption).  Once kids understand place value and the distributive property, theyy see multiplication as area and can fill in the boxes easily.

This skill translates into long form multiplication as their math thinking matures.  But this method comes back to help kids when they get to unknowns and the distributive property.  The boxes continue to represent the distributive property as kids solve more difficult algebra problems.


Unknowns in the box method show the distributive property



Kids can continue to use this strategy to learn factoring too.  Once again, the box makes it concrete and visual to engage kids in understanding these difficult concepts.

Using a simple strategy to teach multiplication in third grade pays off as kids work their way through elementary math concepts.  Once kids know this well, they can continue to apply this strategy to new situations.  My students know this well and use it easily.  I hope they continue to use the box strategy as they move on to more difficult algebra problems.



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