The first time I saw examples of how to use LEGO to teach math on Pinterest, I immediately began to think of ideas that went beyond what I saw posted. Most of the suggestions there involved explaining fractions, and LEGO opens up a much wider range of possibilities. Using LEGO as a manipulative helps math come alive for students.
I began using LEGO as a manipulative in my teaching, and later, I began teaching others how to use them in the classroom. This has become the most popular workshop I offer, and often teachers tell me, “I had no idea that LEGO could be used in all these ways!”
The three primary reasons I like using LEGO for math are:
- LEGO has so many attributes that you can use when teaching math.
- LEGO pieces can be assembled or taken apart while working with math concepts.
- The wide variety of LEGO pieces available help students to learn the underlying concepts in math problems, rather than become attached to one way of representing a problem.
As educators, we deal in big concepts and pretty ambitious outcomes: numbers sense and operations, geometry, measurement, algebra, data management, probability, and so on. But when it comes to LEGO, what children latch onto is the simplest, most natural thing in the world: play! Play is about connecting the mind and imagination with the senses, spatial orientation, and muscles. It is a whole body way to learn.
Here are two examples of how LEGO can be used:
- One way to teach probability is to take a cloth bag and fill it with LEGO pieces of certain shapes, sizes, and colours, so that there is a very low chance of picking one particular piece, and then let the students take turns pulling out a piece. Record the results and show the relationship between probability and experience.
- You can teach measurement, rudimentary algebra, and estimation by giving each child a limited number of pieces and instructing them to try to build the tallest or widest structure within certain parameters. Then let their natural creative puzzle solving instincts do the rest. When they are done ask the children to talk about their strategies and give tips to other aspiring LEGO geniuses!
LEGO opens up a world of possibilities for “creative math” at its best. If you are ready to find out how to bring this fabulous resource into your classroom, give me a call!
To book a workshop with Dominic, please use the form on the Contact Me section of this site or call 315-464-0540.