Arranging Desks: Multiplication and Division Part I

Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Subject Area





This learning activity is a great introductory activity that allows the students to build equal groups using arrays. Students will build designs of desk arrangements in a classroom using counters or unifix cubes. Students must take 24 desks and divide them into equal groups to create a classroom desk arrangement. Students will write a multiplication and division equation for each arrangement. This will help students see the relationship between multiplication and division.


Mathematics (2019) Grade(s): 3


Solve word situations using multiplication and division within 100 involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities; represent the situation using models, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number.



  • Equal groups
  • Arrays
  • Measurement division
  • Factor
  • Product
  • Quotient
  • Partitive division
  • Represent
  • Unknown


Students know:
  • Multiplication situations can be related to division contexts by identifying the total number of groups and the number of items in a group.
  • Strategies to solve problems involving multiplication and division.


Students are able to:
  • Use models, drawings, and equations to represent a multiplication or division situation.
  • Use symbols to represent unknownquantities in equations.
  • Solve word situations with multiplication and division within 100 involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities.


Students understand that:
  • a word problem with an unknown product is a multiplication problem, and a word problem with an unknown number of groups or an unknown group size can be thought of as a division problem or a multiplication problem with an unknown factor.

Learning Objectives

Students will solve a word problem using multiplication and division involving equal groups and arrays. 

Students will represent the problem using models and drawings.  

Activity Details

The teacher will display the Arranging Desks word problem for the class. The teacher will read the word problem and allow the students to explore different ways to arrange 24 classroom desks. Students will record their array models on their paper and write a multiplication and division equation for each design. 

As the students are building their designs, the teacher should walk around the room making sure the students are creating equal groups and identifying the relationship between multiplication and division. This activity is completely student-centered. The teacher is only the facilitator, guiding students through questioning when needed. This introductory activity will allow students of all abilities to explore multiplication and division. 

Assessment Strategies

The teacher will observe the students' models, drawings, and equations as a formative assessment. 

Variation Tips

You may extend this activity by asking the students to build desk arrangements with other numbers.

If a student struggles with dividing 24 counters, you may ask them to arrange 10, 12, or 16 desks. 

Background / Preparation

The teacher should read over the Arranging Desks word problem.

Each student will need something to write on and 24 counters or unifix cubes.