Saturday, 7 March 2015

18 FUNtastic Ideas using LEGO to Teach Math

Using Lego to teach math? ABSOLUTELY!

When I was in school I loved math, but when I decided to home school my kids, math was one of the subjects I worried about most.

Not only did I desire to make learning math fun, I also wanted to ensure that my kids understood the LOGIC behind it.

It's easy enough in the early years to have children memorize facts, but facts can only get you so far. I believe if a child understands the concept of math at a fundamental level, then they will have an easier time grasping more abstract concepts later on.

After much trial, error, and learning from past mistakes, I've come to thoroughly enjoy teaching math to my kids. I love finding the way to explain a concept to them in the way I know THEY will best understand it.

I firmly believe if a child is not grasping a concept it is not because the child is dumb or unable to understand, it is because it’s not being presented to them in the right way. Every child has their own mode of learning and I believe it is my responsibility as a teacher to ensure that I am presenting things in a way that makes sense in their heads.

I enjoy making math a visual, tangible concept and here are 18 ways I've used Lego to accomplish just that.

I started out by going on the Lego website and buying the specific pieces I wanted to make my set (more info below). I decided to keep it color coded so they don't always need to count. Once they are familiar with 2 being pink or 8 being gold, they are able to see the answers quickly without always resorting to counting it out.

1. Counting

After they've learned the basic 1-10, you can take them on to larger numbers by combining the ones they already know.

I like to teach place value at an early age even if they don't fully grasp the concept, I constantly reiterate "12 is 1 ten and 2 units, or 25 is 2 tens and 5 units". I've found once they understand numbers as tens and units it helps immensely when doing mental maths. For example: when I see 25+13 I'll immediately think 3 tens, 8 units, 38.

My kids add much faster in their heads when use this concept.

2. Counting Up/Counting On 

Whether you want to teach them counting up or counting on (or both) Duplo blocks are great. When teaching them to count up, I like to reinforce the concept that the numbers are going up by having them stack each number on top of the other. For counting on, we use the number line concept where going right is more (adding) and going left is less (taking away).

3. Counting Down/Counting Back

As with counting up, I reinforce that the numbers are going down by having them stack below. The same applies with counting back. 

4. One More, One Less

5. Making Graphs

6. Place Value

7. Addition

Single digit addition is just having them take the numbers to add, place them together and find which piece (number) fits. 

For double digits, I have them build each number first (by tens and units) and then see how many tens and how many units. 

8. Subtraction

To subtract, I have them place the number we're taking away on top of the number we started with. Then they find the piece that fits to what's left. I found this also helps them with word problems which don't use "subtract" but ask the student to find how much was left, or what was the difference. 

9. Doubling numbers

For simple doubling, I have them take two of a number and then find the piece that fits (see first picture). For more advanced, I have them first build the number ie: 14 is made up of one ten and four units. Then we double it (they can either count the units or find the piece that fits two fours).  

10. Halving

As with doubling, simple halving is pretty straight forward. For more advanced, I have them first build the number (28 is made up of 2 tens and 8 units) and then half the tens and half the units. 

11. Sets which Make 10

Fantastic especially for visual learners as they can see clearly which numbers (by color) to combine to make 10. 

12. Making 100 with 10s

Using our 100 block, we can see how many more tens we need to make 100. 

13. Greater Than/Less Than

14. Multiplication

I forgot to put it in the picture, but because I like to reinforce that 3x4 is the same as 4x3, I'll often have them build it both ways to see that they both give the same answer. 

15. Division

For dividing I'll ask them, "How many 8s does it take to make 24?" or "We need 6 of which number to make 24?" 

16. Fractions

I haven't used Lego much for fractions (I prefer pizzas and pies), but the above pictures is a 2-step example of how you could illustrate finding the fraction of a number.

17. Teaching Time 

I came across this fantastic idea on another blog for using Lego to teach time. 

 BONUS: 18. A Simple Illustration to Show Why We Carry

If you would like to build your own set, here's what I used to get started:

I couldn't find a different color for each of the numbers, so I spray painted some and used flat Lego pieces stacked together to make others. 

The 9s, 7s, and 5s, are made up of combinations like the one shown above. (I'd strongly recommend gluing them together as we've had no end of trouble when one flat piece sticks to another number after using it for subtracting.) 

I hope this tutorial gives you some FUNtastic ideas for enjoying math with your child. I'd love to hear of any other ideas for using Legos to teach math. 
Thanks for stopping by. xx

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