Lesson plan

Associative Property of Multiplication

Teach your students to recognize and use the associative property of multiplication.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Explore the Associative Property of Multiplication pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Explore the Associative Property of Multiplication pre-lesson.

Students will be able to apply the associative property to multiply single-digit factors.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students what the word associate means. Use it in a sentence. For example, "I associate with Matthew during recess," or "We often associate the color blue with sadness." Give students a moment to discuss the word with peers.
  • Call on a few students to give a definition for the word associate and then develop a meaning with the class (i.e. joined or connected)
  • On the board, draw a quick picture to illustrate the word (i.e. draw two people holding hands)
  • Explain: Today we are going to explore the associative property of multiplication.
  • Write the name of the property on the board and underline the word associative.
(10 minutes)
  • Remind students that we can group numbers using parentheses.
  • Explain: The associative property of multiplication states that an equation will have the same product regardless of how the factors are grouped.
  • Write the definition on the board for student reference.
  • Give an example, like (2 x 5) x 8 = 2 x (5 x 8). Solve each equation and show the students the product for each is 80.
  • Point out that the factors are the same, and in the same order, but they are grouped differently.
  • Write a second example on the board, like 3 x (2 x 4) = (3 x 2) x 4. Then solve.
  • Summarize: When solving multiplication problems, factors can be grouped in any combination and it will not change the product. This is called the associative property of multiplication.
(10 minutes)
  • Pair students with a partner.
  • Hand out strips of paper, four pieces of macaroni pasta, and glue to each set of partners.
  • Have students work with their partner to write an equation with three matching factors on either side of the equal sign (i.e. 4 x 5 x 6 = 4 x 5 x 6) leaving room between numbers.
  • Instruct students to use their macaroni as parenthesis and glue them into their equation so that it illustrates the associative property ( i.e. (4 x 5) x 6 = 4 x (5 x 6) )
  • Instruct partnerships to solve each side of the equation and discuss their conclusion about the placement of the parentheses.
(20 minutes)
  • Hand out the It’s Associative worksheet.
  • Complete the first problem with the class, then instruct students to complete the worksheet independently.
  • Circulate as students work and offer support as needed, then review the worksheet as a class.


  • Provide partially completed problems, with parentheses around one set of factors, and have students add in parentheses to show the associative property.


  • Have students use the internet to research other properties of multiplication.
(5 minutes)
  • Have students make a comic or picture equation showing the associative property (see resources for an example).
  • Collect and check for understanding.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students, "What does the associative property help us understand about multiplication?"
  • Discuss answers as a class.
    • Some answers might include: Factors can be grouped in any combination, the product doesn’t change as long as the factors are the same, and multiplication has similar properties to addition.

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