Earlier in the year my 6th graders talk about the distributive property without variables. Partway through this post I shared how I introduce that idea to students.

Later on in the year we start talking about the distributive property with variables. I started by reviewing how they used the distributive property earlier in the year without variables. I was so impressed with how many different ways my students came up with to use the distributive property to multiply 7×48.

This year I used Illustrative Math Unit 6 Lessons 10 and 11 to introduce the distributive property with variables.

Illustrative Math Grade 6 Unit 6 Lesson 10

Illustrative Math Grade 6 Unit 6 Lesson 10

Illustrative Math Grade 6 Unit 6 Lesson 11

Illustrative Math Grade 6 Unit 6 Lesson 11

As we were working through the resources from Illustrative Math, I loved how they incorporated the idea of factoring, without explicitly calling it that. I had done a little bit of that in the past with this puzzle from Open Middle.

Again, I was super impressed with all the different solutions they came up with. I didn’t quite use the “rule” of the Open Middle problem and allowed students to use fractions and decimals.

After going through that, students worked on this distributive property puzzle. When students finished that, they started working on some Yohaku style puzzles I created. This was my first time creating my own puzzles like this, so I had no idea how it would go over with students. When I made the puzzles, I found two solutions for each.

This activity went over SO much better than I even imagined, and my students found solutions that were much more creative than the ones I had found!

When I was explaining how these puzzles worked to students I told them that if I did it correctly when I made them, each one should have at least two solutions. One student asked, “But what if you did it wrong?” I told them that very well could have happened. I’m human, and it’s May. I’m tired. 😉

After the first group found two solutions for the same puzzle, one student told me, “You did it right! You didn’t make a mistake.”

My students were so engaged while working on these puzzles. They were so persistent. I loved seeing all the eraser marks on their paper as evidence of them trying again and again and again until they found something that worked. Students were cheering when they found a solution. I wish I had recorded them working on these. It was fantastic.

After the bell rang one student said, “Could you make some more of these for next week? Maybe nobody else liked them, but I thought they were fun.”

I also am looking forward to have a conversation with this student about the right column.

I completely understand the student’s thinking. This is the same student who came up with this solution earlier in the week.

##### Here is the link to the puzzles I created.

If you create more, I would love to see what you come up with. After sharing a picture of the puzzles on Twitter, Yohaku created a few similar. You can find them here.

##### Solving Equations

Then we start solving equations using the distributive property.

I gave them a couple review problems prior to starting this. The problems were similar to the following.

- 3(x + 4)
- 3x + 12 = 24

Then I told them we were going to use both of those ideas today and put the following problem up: 3(x + 4) = 24.

As students were working on this one student goes, “Oh Ms. Bergman, you are so smart.” Another example of a student noticing that I am intentional about the problems I put in front of them, and I love it.

(Also, yes I know we don’t need to use the distributive property to solve 3(x + 4) = 24. We talk about that too.)

I made an Add Em Up activity for this. You can download the file here. Add Em Up is an activity I got from Sara Van Der Werf. You can read her post on this activity here and a post I wrote here. Students are always super engaged when doing this! We also spent some time doing Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces with these problems and students were also super engaged in the math they were doing. Here are some of the problems we used for VNPS.