Math Properties- Connecting with the Terms

Commutative, associative, distributive... the math property terms can be a bit intimidating for elementary students being introduced to the addition and multiplication properties. I know some teachers who rename the commutative property the "flip-flop property", but personally, I'm not a big fan of renaming challenging words. A few years back, I was helping one of my ELL students complete a math assignment. She was supposed to match the equation in Column A to the addition property that was being modeled in Column B. When she saw the problem (5 + 8 = 8 + 5), her eyes lit up and she said, "Oh, I know this! It's the flip-flop property!" Of course, she was exactly correct... but "flip flop property" was not one of the answer choices.

She sat there, tapping her pencil to her lips. I read the answer choices to her, and told her that one of them was the official word for "the flip flop property". Clearly taking a random guess, she pointed to one of the words and asked, "Is it this one?"

As an ESL teacher, I strongly believe in teaching students strategies that will help them decipher meanings of unknown words- whether it's by using context clues, finding a base word, or looking for a root, prefix, or suffix. In terms of learning the math property words, finding a base word is the ideal strategy. The anchor chart below shows how I extract the base words and place each within the context of a sentence to help students make a meaningful connection between the word and the meaning of the property. I also like to attach each property to a visual cue (another ESL teaching strategy) to deepen the connection.
Math Properties Anchor Chart! Teach students about the commutative, associative, distributive and identity properties this this anchor chart!
If you would like to create this anchor chart yourself, click HERE. If you print page 2 of the preview, you can color and cut out the images (by Educlips and A Sketchy Guy) on this page and use in on your anchor chart.

I recently created two math property PowerPoints (one for addition, and one for multiplication), and I used the same method described above. These slides show how I introduced each term.





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