Many children find it hard to understand math, which is why this subject is one of the least favourite subjects of all time. Because they don’t understand it, they get frustrated and build up a defensive system within themselves or fear starts building up within making them dismiss it as something that they hate and will never want to deal with.

As everything else in our modern era needs an upgrade, so does math teaching. Traditional ways simply don’t work anymore and new, creative ways are always welcome. Good teachers always do their best to make students learn more easily and fall in love with learning. Alycia Zimmerman, a 3rd- grade teacher from New York, is definitely a great teacher and her awesome creativity really deserves credit.

This amazing teacher created a way to make learning math more fun using LEGO to teach her students. She made it easier for her students to understand concepts like fractions, adding, and multiplication, by allowing them to actively participate in the learning process and offering them a visual representation. Her approach also helped them build spatial and proportional awareness.

Children Should Know That Learning Can Be Fun

Other teachers have also tried to find new ways to teach math that would be more appealing to students and make them want to learn this subject and not be afraid of it. Among them is Marcus Blackwell, a math teacher at the Utopian Academy in Atlanta, who succeeded in getting students interested in the subject by combining music and math. As a result, students expressed a desire to learn their favourite songs through math.

How to Use Lego for Math Teaching

Part-part-total thinking       

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When learning math, as with most other things, one should start from scratch, i.e., learn the basics before they move on to something more complex. Learning to compose and decompose numbers is a very important math skill that immensely helps in understanding math. You can start with numbers like five (one hand) or 6 (a standard die), and then slowly build up to 10.

It is very convenient that Lego bricks have round studs that are clearly marked, which makes them easy to count, and also they are usually grouped in twos. Eventually, with some practice, students won’t have to count them because they will learn to recognize the arrangements. You can use this process to teach addition, by taking two bricks and putting them together, or subtraction, by covering a brick with a smaller one and counting what’s left.

Colourful arrays

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What’s really great about Lego blocks is that we can find them in various colours. Their colours help students visually differentiate between the blocks they use.

Lego bricks can also be used to explain multiplication, division and square roots. Students can learn how arrays work by adding and combining the bricks, while the colour coding will help them visualize it.

Mean, median, mode and range

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Lego bricks can be helpful when trying to teach averages, mean, median, mode, and range. As Alycia explains in her article for Scholastic:

“When finding the mean (arithmetic average), students quickly learn to add all of the data and then divide the total by the number of data points. But very few students fully understand why they do this add-then-divide dance to find the mean. While evening out LEGO towers of varying heights, students have a first-hand experience of what “mean” means.”(Zimmerman, A., 2013, Using LEGO to Build Math Concepts)

Fractions

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Some students get a little confused when their math teacher starts talking about different size “wholes” or when they switch from thinking about the fractions of one whole to fractions of a set. That is why, the use of tangible objects like Lego bricks, can largely help them visualize the problem which is hard for them to do when looking at numbers only. There are other alternatives used for teaching fractions, such as pattern blocks, however, Lego has more possibilities because the bricks vary in size and shape.

Tips on Teaching with Lego

Explore with the Lego:

When you give your students Lego bricks for the first time, they will most certainly want to play with them, which is completely natural. Therefore, you should simply let them explore with the Lego, or as Alycia suggests, give them time to “explore the mathematical possibilities of their bricks.” By doing this, you will prepare your students for what comes later and enable them to focus on the important issues. Moreover, this will help them remember that they should see Lego as a fun thing and not only as something related to work.

Use Custom Made Kits:

Keep the pieces in custom made kits. To avoid any distraction or confusion, give students only the pieces they need for the assignment. Another useful tip is to label the bags with pieces so the students know what they are supposed to do and stay on track.

Teaching math with Lego surely proves to be a great way to help students grasp the meaning of this subject as well as to motivate them to love it. If you are a math teacher, we strongly encourage you to try using this method in your class and let us know of your own experience.

Sources:

Zimmerman, A. (2013, December 27). Using LEGO to Build Math Concepts. Retrieved November 4, 2016, from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2013/12/using-lego-build-math-concepts

The Hearty Soul. (n.d.). Teacher uses LEGO to explain math to children. Brilliant! Retrieved November 4, 2016, from http://theheartysoul.com/using-lego-in-classroom/

Image source: www.TheHeartySoul.com