The first step in learning math is learning to count. But there’s more to counting than just reciting a string of numbers in order—lots more. You want your students to develop a solid base of fluency with numbers. They do this by learn to count on, count back, skip-count, and use one-to-one correspondence. Modeling math with manipulatives gets early learners off on the right foot. Brick Math uses LEGO® bricks as the manipulative to help your students visualize the math, so it’s fun to learn!
In Counting and Cardinality Using LEGO® Bricks, the hands-on activities using LEGO® bricks help students learn:
• pattern recognition
• jump numbers
• concepts of more than and less than
• one-to-one correspondence
Brick Math helps students learn counting and cardinality through its integrated program. The teacher leads students through step-by-step lesson plans. Using the bricks, students create models of the math as they learn. They then draw the models they’ve created and explain how the models work. These different ways of interacting with the bricks lead to a deep understanding of counting and cardinality.
Using LEGO® bricks to model math adds creativity into the process of learning math. Brick Math gives students the opportunity to create multiple solutions for problems instead of looking for only one right answer. Click here to see several videos of lessons from Counting and Cardinality Using LEGO® Bricks—Teacher Edition.
Using LEGO® bricks to learn math with Brick Math is fun—for the teacher AND the students!
Click here for a preview of a lesson from Counting and Cardinality Using LEGO® Bricks—Teacher Edition.
You’re an elementary school teacher who loves LEGO® bricks, and you’ve always wanted to use them to teach math. Finally, there’s a program to do it — Brick Math: Teaching Math Using LEGO® Bricks!
Test out Brick Math with one Teacher Edition of any subject and one Student Edition of that subject. Use your own LEGO® bricks for now; the specific bricks you’ll need are listed at the beginning of each chapter and the whole list of bricks needed for the program is in each book's Appendix. Work through a few chapters with a student one-on-one. You’ll quickly see how easy Brick Math is to teach, and how much students enjoy learning this way. The two books will set you back less than $25, and the small investment will earn great rewards for you and your students.
Another great way to start with Brick Math is to choose one subject and introduce it in a small group setting. For example, maybe you have some fourth graders who haven’t really ever understood fractions. Here’s all you need to start working with four students at a time: one Teacher Edition of Basic Fractions Using LEGO® Bricks, two brick sets (each set can be shared between two students), and (optional) four companion Student Editions of Basic Fractions Using LEGO® Bricks. This will cost less than $175. If your PTA offers small grants to teachers, this is the perfect use for that money!
Here’s how you teach with any subject in Brick Math:
And here are some tips that author Dr. Shirley Disseler says will help when you’re first introducing Brick Math to your students:
Check the Brick Math website for videos that will help you get started teaching with Brick Math. The site, www.brickmath.com, has lots of info about how to teach math using LEGO® bricks!
Learning multiplication is NOT memorizing times tables! The rote process of repeating multiplication tables over and over, taking speed tests, and writing math facts ten times each— these instructional methods are not supported in educational research.
Students learn the concept of multiplication best through the process of modeling with manipulatives. And that’s where Brick Math can help students learn multiplication. The Brick Math program uses LEGO® or LEGO®-compatible bricks as the manipulatives. With Brick Math, students create models that help them understand the concepts behind multiplication.
Students begin with the basics—understanding the meaning of multiplication as it relates to repeated addition. This understanding usually begins in grade 2 with the introduction of sets and its relationship to skip-counting. Students then learn basic facts of multiplication through modeling, arrays, and word problems, typically in grade 3. They work on one-digit multiplication problems and later learn how to multiply two-digit numbers and beyond in grades 4 and 5.
In Brick Math, students learn multiplication through an integrated program. They create models using the bricks. They then draw the models they’ve created. Finally, they explain in writing how and why they created the models. These three different ways of interacting with bricks lead to a deep understanding of how multiplication works.
When students model the action of multiplication using bricks, they have the opportunity to create multiple solutions to problems instead of looking for the one right answer.
Watch the video below to see a Brick Math lesson in action. This one is about multiplication fact families. Then click here to download a lesson plan about finding factors from the Brick Math book Multiplication Using LEGO® Bricks—Teacher Edition.
Brick Math is fun! Students love playing with bricks, and Brick Math helps them discover that math can be entertaining. As one Brick Math student said: “Why doesn’t everyone learn math this way?”
Some students who have mastered the concepts of addition and subtraction lose their way when they try to learn division. Many math textbooks don’t help students learn division.
Students learn the concept of division best through the process of modeling with manipulatives. Brick Math uses manipulatives that kids love: LEGO® bricks! With Brick Math, students create models that help them understand the concepts behind division.
Brick Math helps students learn division through an integrated program. The teacher uses the step-by-step lesson plan to show students each concept. Then students create brick models of the math as they learn. They draw the models they’ve created and explain in writing what the models mean. These three different ways of interacting with bricks lead to a deep understanding of division.
The Brick Math Division book uses a step-by-step approach to break down these division concepts into learning modules:
Watch the video below to see a Brick Math lesson for teaching division basics.
Click here for a FREE preview of the Brick Math book Division Using LEGO® Bricks—Teacher Edition.
When students model the action of division using bricks, they have the opportunity to create multiple solutions to problems instead of looking for one right answer.
Brick Math is fun! Students love learning math with bricks. A teacher said: “My students would rather do Brick Math than go to recess! They love it!”
Learning fractions is difficult for many elementary school students. Even those who have succeeded in learning other math concepts may come up against a roadblock when they start to learn fractions.
Research shows that the best way to learn fractions involves modeling fractions with manipulatives. Brick Math is the perfect way to learn fractions, because the manipulatives used in Brick Math are LEGO® bricks!
Brick Math helps students learn fractions through its integrated program. The teacher leads students through step-by-step lesson plans. Using the bricks, students create models of the math as they learn. They then draw the models they’ve created and explain in writing how the models work. These different ways of interacting with the bricks lead to a deep understanding of fractions.
Brick Math gives students the opportunity to create multiple solutions for problems instead of looking for only one right answer. Students who haven’t been able to understanding fractions before will learn fractions with Brick Math.
The video below shows a Brick Math lesson about adding fractions with like denominators.
Brick Math is fun! Students love using bricks to learn math. One student said it all: “I finally understand fractions. I can see them!”
To see more fractions lesson plans, click here to get a FREE preview of the Brick Math Basic Fractions book.
We like to think of Brick Math as the Swiss Army Knife of educational programs. It’s a versatile teaching tool that works in many different settings.
Whole class: The Brick Math program can be introduced to the whole class by the teacher. In fact, many schools have adopted Brick Math as their elementary math curriculum across the school. Once teachers get accustomed to using the LEGO® bricks as the manipulative tool, they recognize the power of the build-draw-explain Brick Math lesson plans. The teacher works through the lessons in each book, having the students build models at the same time. A document camera is a great help for displaying the brick models to the whole class so everyone can see them. Students share brick sets in pairs and often work together in the lessons, comparing their models and explaining their thinking processes to each other. The Student Edition makes it especially easy for teachers to assess and track students’ progress.
Small Group: Brick Math is often used by a school math specialist in a small-group setting. It’s very well suited to the interactive nature of small group learning.
Intervention: Schools are discovering the value of Brick Math as the perfect tool for math intervention. The modular components of the Brick Math system allow the program to be introduced at any point where a student is having difficulty learning through the school-wide math textbook curriculum. Time and time again, students who have been struggling with learning a concept such as fractions, for example, are successful with the Brick Math approach. We’ve heard kids make comments like: “Finally! I understand the math because I can see it!” and “Why doesn’t everyone learn math this way?”
Gifted: As useful as Brick Math is for students who aren’t learning math through other teaching methods, it’s also great as enrichment for students who already understand and love math.
Centers or One-to-One: Students really enjoy the hands-on nature of Brick Math, making it very adaptable to one-to-one learning or individual centers.
Like the Swiss Army Knife, Brick Math has something for everyone!
High Point University, home of Brick Math author Dr. Shirley Disseler, celebrated International LEGO Day yesterday, encouraging HPU students to come to the Stout School of Education and build something out of bricks that they are passionate about.
Dr. Disseler is passionate about using the bricks to help students learn math. Her Brick Math curriculum for elementary and middle school was developed to help students conceptualize math, or, as Dr. Disseler says, "to understand the why behind the math."
Here's the full article about International LEGO Day at HPU, courtesy of the HIgh Point Enterprise.
A new mixed-method study shows significant gains in test scores for math content in grades K - 2 after instruction using Brick Math. The findings from a new study of 500 students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade shows that 320 of the 500 students, or 64 percent, made pre-to-post assessment gains of 4 or more points on a 10-point scale.
Each student was given ten problems to complete, in writing or orally, in the areas of counting and cardinality, addition, or subtraction prior to being taught with the Brick Math methods. The same problems were then used with the Brick Math program. Before starting Brick Math, students were asked questions about why they responded in certain ways to the problems to help the researcher identify misconceptions held by students about number sense and computational understanding. Once the problems were completed using the Brick Math methods, the problems were again scored on a scale of 1 - 10 (correct versus incorrect).
Students were then asked to discuss the meaning of the models with the researcher. Students were also encouraged to ask questions for clarity during the teaching process. The discussion of the models yielded some important information about how students learn and understand math. Students in kindergarten made comments such as: “Now I see why 8 is larger than 3,” and "5 is between 3 and 8.” Students learning about place value said, “Counting bricks in the tens and ones place helps me know what number goes in each place.” A student further explained, “Two 1x2 bricks and four 1x1 bricks show that the tens place is 2 and the ones place is 4, and the whole number is 24.”
This study was conducted in public and private school classrooms in New Jersey and North Carolina, in rural, suburban, and urban settings for 150 kindergarten, 200 first grade, and 200 second grade students.
Data and Findings:
The data was analyzed using a one-way ANOVA from SPSS, which indicates that achievement was statistically significant across all three grade levels and all content materials. A Pearson correlation shows no significance between the performance of girls versus boys. This finding is interesting, in that many believe LEGO® bricks are preferred by boys. In this study, the girls did as well as the boys in achievement when using Brick Math. The variables measured in the study included: focus and body language when using Brick Math, verbal participation and questioning by the student, the degree to which students were able to make conceptual meanings in the models, performance pre to post (before Brick Math instruction and after Brick Math instruction). It was interesting to note that the degree of focus was significant (p = 0.03) upon introduction of the bricks to do the math problems. The findings also suggest that both the level of performance and the degree of perseverance are directly related to the degree to which the student could focus (p < .05) in all correlations of these variables. The median pre- to post-difference in the study across all groups was 4 with a range from 0 – 10.
The means are displayed for each grade, pre and post, in Table 1. The spread of the mean shows wide differences before and after the instruction in each of the three grades, with the largest difference found in grade 2.
Table 1: Comparison of Means Pre-to-Post by Grade Level
Grade N Means
K 150 3.3600 7.2667
1 150 4.0467 7.6133
2 200 3.6050 8.0300
The modeling of math offers students a way to connect, but when LEGO® bricks are introduced as the medium for learning content, students become enthusiastic, focused, and engaged, which leads to motivation and time on task. Education experts agree that motivation and engagement are the two key elements in getting students to learn. This study is part of a larger study being conducted to emphasize the value of Brick Math in elementary and middle school math classrooms. This study, which utilized Brick Math as both a guided math and whole class lesson, points to positive learning gains for children in the early years of elementary math. Setting the stage for more sophisticated math content, getting students to understand the “why” behind the basics of math is a key component necessary in early stages of math learning. If students can build a model of the problem and solution, and explain verbally or in writing the “why” behind the math, the likelihood of future success in both their opinions about math and their ability to persevere in dealing with more difficult math will be greatly enhanced.
by Dr. Shirley Disseler
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard from teachers, ”Students just need to learn the math! They need to learn the procedures so they can ace the test”. . . well, I’d have a big pile of cash, that’s for sure!
I know that data is key in schools today, but we are not educating students to be test takers—we are educating them to use math in their daily lives and to know why it works the way it works. We want them to have good number sense, problem solving strategies, and mental math frameworks.
Using manipulatives is central to this process as students move through learning trajectories in math that include conceptual, representational, and abstract levels of understanding. If we try to skip the conceptual or representational learning and go straight to the more abstract level of procedures, we will create a gap in learning that will hurt the student later on.
Too many classrooms omit the concrete application that creates conceptual understanding. By sixth grade you can easily tell whether students have been exposed to manipulative processes or not. Students who have not used manipulatives in the learning process often have gaps in their ability to think through a problem logically or to show their work.
The LEGO brick allows for the concrete math to be discovered, which helps students understand the “why” behind the math. Posing questions in context while building models with the bricks encourages a sense of inquiry. Students ask questions about the math, discover invented strategies, and “play” with numbers. The LEGO bricks offer opportunities for students to build, draw, and write about possible solutions. This opens the door for discourse about math and number theory.
So when teachers ask me, “Is all this building with bricks really necessary?” my answer is always, “It is not only necessary, it is imperative if you are teaching for more than the test.”
Congratulations to Jane O'Dell, Cindy Beacham, and Tami Broomall, winners of our Brick Math brick set giveaway! Each won a 2-person brick set that works with any of the books in Brick Math. Keep checking our Facebook page, Teaching Math Using LEGO Bricks, for the next giveaway!