8 Real Life Examples Of Distributive Property

Have you ever gone grocery shopping and found a great deal on a pack of snacks, but you needed to calculate the total cost for a certain number of packs? Or have you ever had to distribute a certain amount of money among a group of people based on a set amount per person? 

These are just a couple of real-life situations where distributive property comes in handy! The distributive property is a mathematical concept that helps us simplify expressions by breaking down terms and distributing them across other terms. In this section, we’ll explore some creative and fun real-life examples that can help middle school students understand and apply distributive property in their everyday lives. So grab a snack (or two) and let’s dive in!

Mastering the distributive property: Through everyday applications!

1. Buying in bulk:

Buying in bulk

When you buy a large quantity of an item at once, you can often get a discount. For example, if a store is offering a discount of 10% off on purchases over $50, you can use the distributive property to calculate how much you’ll save. If you’re buying $75 worth of items, you can use the equation 0.1(50) + 0.1(25) to calculate the discount, which simplifies to 5 + 2.5 = 7.5. So you’ll save $7.50 by buying in bulk.

2. Calculating distance:

 Calculating distance

When you’re calculating distance, you might need to use the distributive property to simplify the calculation. For example, if you’re traveling 60 miles per hour for 3 hours, you can use the equation 60 x 3 = (50 + 10) x 3 = 180 to calculate the total distance traveled.

3. Grocery Shopping:

Grocery Shopping

Imagine you are buying three packs of apples, each priced at $2, and two packs of oranges, each priced at $3. The total cost can be calculated using the distributive property: (3 × $2) + (2 × $3) = $6 + $6 = $12.

4. Time Management:

Time Management

Let’s say you have three activities, each taking 30 minutes, and you have two more activities, each taking 45 minutes. You can use the distributive property to calculate the total time required: Total Time = (3 × 30 minutes) + (2 × 45 minutes) = 90 minutes + 90 minutes = 180 minutes.

5. Budgeting Expenses:

Budgeting Expenses

Suppose you have a monthly budget and allocate 20% of your income to savings and 30% to rent. You can calculate the expenses using the distributive property: Budget = 0.2 (income for savings) + 0.3 (income for rent) which will be = Income (0.2 + 0.3)

6. Calculating Total Cost:

Calculating Total Cost

If you buy 4 books, each priced at $10, and 2 pencils, each priced at $2, you can use the distributive property to find the total cost: (4 × $10) + (2 × $2) = $40 + $4 = $44.

7. Distributing Objects:

Distributing Objects

If you have 5 boxes, and each box contains 3 pencils and 2 erasers, you can use the distributive property to find the total number of pencils and erasers: (5 × 3 pencils) + (5 × 2 erasers) = 15 pencils + 10 erasers.

8. Area Calculation:

Imagine you have a rectangular garden with a length of 5 meters and a width of (3 + 2) meters. Using the distributive property, we can distribute the multiplication: 5 × (3 + 2). This simplifies to (5 × 3) + (5 × 2), which further simplifies to 15 + 10 = 25 square meters. The distributive property helps us calculate the total area by distributing the length to both terms in the width.

Unlocking the power of the distributive property: Effective teaching strategies

When teaching math, it’s important to find effective strategies for helping students understand important concepts, such as the distributive property. This mathematical property is used to simplify expressions by breaking down terms and distributing them across other terms in the expression. Here are some specific strategies that teachers can use to teach distributive property to middle school students.

  • Use concrete examples: Start by using concrete examples that students can relate to, such as using the distributive property to distribute candy or money to different people. This will help students see how the property works in a real-world context.
  • Provide guided practice: Provide students with guided practice problems that break down the distributive property step by step. This will help students understand the process and build confidence in using it.
  • Provide feedback: Give students feedback on their work, including specific feedback on their use of the distributive property. This will help them identify areas where they need improvement and build their confidence in using the property.
  • Use manipulatives: Use manipulatives such as algebra tiles, base ten blocks, or other objects to help students visualize the distributive property. This will help them see how the property works and build a deeper understanding of the concept.
  • Connect to prior knowledge: Connect the distributive property to prior knowledge that students have, such as multiplication or factoring. This will help students see how the property fits into their existing understanding of math concepts.

By using these strategies, teachers can help students understand the distributive property and apply it effectively to a variety of math problems.


In conclusion, the distributive property is an important mathematical concept that middle school students need to understand in order to excel in algebra and beyond. By using creative real-life examples, such as calculating the cost of snacks at the grocery store or distributing money among friends, teachers can help students understand and apply the distributive property in meaningful ways.

Additionally, strategies such as modeling, hands-on activities, and visual aids can also be effective in teaching this concept. By incorporating these strategies and examples into their lessons, teachers can help their students master the distributive property and develop strong foundational skills in algebra and mathematics as a whole.

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