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Math Vocabulary: Distribute

Math vocabulary word of the day: distribute!


Why is it that we oft forget the importance of math vocabulary? In reading instruction, it is always included as part of the programming but often in mathematics instruction, it is breezed over.

Neurodiverse students especially need to be taught directly the roots, prefixes, and suffixes not only in everyday reading but in math vocabulary too! This is called Morphology.

What Is Morphology?

Morphology, a word of Greek origin, combines “morphe,” meaning form, and “ology,” meaning the study of. Morphing creates mental pictures of children’s toys such as LEGO™ bricks that click together to create new forms beyond a rectangular prism.


Building a Spaceship!

Morphology works in much the same manner, with students manipulating the parts of words to create new meanings or altered, but similar, meanings.

Below in this video, we’re studying the word ‘distribute’.

Distribute. What a doozy of a word! Lets break “distribute” down. Dis- means individually and then we have two possible Latin roots that apply! Tribuere and Tribus. Tribuere means “to pay, assign, grant,”. Well. I did not like ‘assign’ or ‘grant’. Those are words that are NOT very relatable to a student. So we went with ‘give’ which is a synonym for assign. Tribus is in reference to tribes which makes total sense to us!

Distribute. To share (give) equally. Distribute.

Be sure to watch the video to see how Vikings distributed their loot!

Click to watch this super quick video!

Tap for Video Transcript Here


Dis comes from Latin origin for  “individually”

“tribute” comes from Latin meaning “to pay, give” but also from Tribus meaning “allot among the tribe”

What do you think distribute means?

Let’s travel back in time to when Vikings raided the earth. 

After the raid, the Vikings would distribute their treasure to the tribes. Each tribe individually would receive their pay.

A tribe is a group. The Viking leader gave to the groups equally.

distribute means to give equally.

If three friends are playing a card game,

we have to distribute the same amount of cards to each friend.

A delivery truck distributes items to shops.

Here we have a combo meal that includes two tacos and one drink. Let’s create a math expression. 

These parentheses help me organize that this is ONE combo meal. 

The combo meal has two tacos (2t) plus one drink (d).

What would it look like if 3 friends bought the same meal? 

Let’s distribute the 3!

This means I am going to multiply 3 equally to each item in the combo meal. 3 times 2 tacos. And 3 times the drink.

When we distribute, we share or multiply equally to each group in the parenthesis. Now we can see that all together we have three combo meals which have 6 tacos and three drinks together.

In just numbers, we can distribute the 3 equally through multiplication to the 2t.

And distribute the 3 through multiplication to the d.

To describe the combo meals together after we distributed, we would say 6t plus 3d. 

Distribute.  To give equally.


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