Help students to make connections between distributive property and geometry through the use of area models (area of rectangles). Using visual models to demonstrate the distributive property helps struggling learners understand conceptually. Algebraic thinkers need visual models to help them make connections between expressions and geometric models. Using area models to organize distributive property also gives students another option (besides FOIL) when multiplying two binomials and factoring quadratic expressions using the "Box Method" in algebra I and algebra II.
Students begin by using area models as they were introduced in elementary school to multiply a single digit number by a double digit number. This could help with mental math as students are taught to decompose numbers using the power of 10 when adding and multiplying. Quickly, students move into 7th grade level distributive property using variables and unlike terms which separates the rectangle into two smaller rectangles that are added together to form the whole area model. Just the math is meant as homework for the lesson and allows students to choose how they want to perform the multiplication - algebraically or visually. The extension models are for advanced students who need additional support at a higher level and allow students to make connections to distributive property in algebra I when multiplying two binomials which is really just a double area model.