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Making Math Fun with LEGO

From addition to fractions, you can use LEGO as a math teaching aid for kids. Here's how!

Published on: July 28, 2014

A car made almost entirely out of Lego blocks

The name itself is a dead giveaway of how useful this toy is. "LEGO" is a corruption of the words "leg godt" — which means "play well" in Danish. It is one of those ubiquitous toys that almost every kid grew up with.

LEGO blocks and their unending possibilities have provided millions of happy play hours to children around the world. And why just children? LEGO holds similar attraction for adults who still have a little bit of a child inside of them.

What parents like about LEGO sets is the fact that these simple and uncomplicated toys will stimulate the brains of young children while still being safely in the 'fun' zone.

So why not use this toy to help children with what can sometimes be a challenging subject — math? Here are some simple yet easy-to-implement ideas for math learning through LEGO fun.


 

Source: The Imagination Tree

Simple counting

LEGO naturally lends itself to counting. With the hundreds of little blocks that each set comes with, ask your child to count:

• the number of blocks in a random pile of LEGO blocks
• the number of dots on each block
• the specific number of blocks in a tower he or she builds

Put a number label on each block based on how many dots it has to help your child make the connection between number of dots on the block and what that number looks like when written down.


 

Bill Ward's "Brickpile" on Flickr Creative Commons

Comparisons

From blocks with one dot to blocks with 16 dots or more, there are tons of sizes to choose from.

Teach your child number comparisons by placing two blocks next to each other and ask your child to pick the larger block (or the smaller one).


 

Photo credit: Pleasant Test Thing

Sequences: Largest to smallest and vice versa

Once a child grasps the concept of bigger and smaller numbers, teach her the sequence of numbers in order of their value. Teaching children ascending and descending orders of numbers forms the basis of teaching them to perform operations like addition, subtraction and the like.

Ask your kid to make a LEGO earthworm with blocks arranged form the largest to the smallest.

Challenge your kiddo to build towers of increasing sizes, starting with a single block tower.


 

Photo credit: The Six Kents

Addition and subtraction

Your little one now knows what comes before and what number comes after, which is bigger than the other, and so on. Apply this knowledge by using multiple LEGO blocks together to add and subtract numbers.

Ask your child to count all the dots on the blocks that you want added to teach addition.

For subtraction, ask your child to place the smaller block on top of the larger block. Then ask them to count the number of dots visible on the larger block. That’s the answer!


 

Photo credit: The Imagination Tree

Measurements

Cathy James from the Nurture Store gives a pretty good demonstration of how the wee blocks can help your wee genius to measure easily.

Simply ask your child to build a tower using blocks alongside the object to be measured. Then ask them to count the number of blocks the tower has. The total number of blocks is the size of the item in LEGO units!


Photo credit: E is for Explore!

Multiplication

Learning math with LEGO is not just for preschoolers or Kindergarteners. Elementary kids can also use LEGO to understand math better.

Take addition one step further by teaching your kid multiplication using LEGOS.

• Ask them to group similar colors together, forming neat color groups
• To multiply 5 X 8, ask them to pick 5 pieces with 8 dots each from every color group
• Now ask them to count the total number of dots that this multicolor set has; that will give them the answer to the multiplication problem


 

Photo credit: Scholastic.com

Fractions

Many elementary school kids struggle with the concept of fractions at some point.

Ask your child to pick the largest yellow rectangular LEGO piece from their set. Let’s assume they picked a 16-dot yellow block.

Now ask them to pick any smaller red colored rectangular LEGO piece and place it on top of the larger one. Let’s say this is a 2-dot red block.

Now ask them to count the number of blocks on the red piece. This is the piece on top, therefore it is the numerator. The yellow piece is below and is larger. Therefore it is the denominator. So the number that you get can be represented as 2/16.

Expand this line of thought to teach them how fractions add up to form a larger number and so on.


 

 

Problem solving

Taking things to the next level, LEGO can help slightly older children visualize word problems, making them seem less daunting.

Take a problem like this: If Jimmy picks 8 apples, he fills up one basket. How many apples will Jimmy have to pick in total to fill 3 baskets of the same size?

This can be solved easily by representing the apples with Lego blocks:

Pick a LEGO block with 8 dots. Ask your child to add 2 more blocks of the same size. Now ask her to count the total number of dots on the set of blocks she picked out.

Voila, the answer!


What more can you do with LEGO?

The possibilities with LEGO are endless, and not just restricted to math. If fun learning is the objective, there’s nothing better than using a bona fide toy as a teaching aid.

Check out this superb article on the various ways educators have been using LEGO in fields other than math.

From teaching language to history, science to mechanics, LEGO can do so much. Simple and versatile, they can teach a range of age groups, offer solutions for specific learning needs, and help children with learning disabilities or even adults learning new skills.

Here’s to many more learning adventures with hundreds of little Lego bricks for company!

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