I recently had a customer tell me that her son didn’t understand the idea of factors until she tried Brick Math. When he saw the concept of factors made real with LEGO bricks, she said, he knew what they were! It’s exciting to hear when students finally “get it” because modeling with bricks makes all the difference for them. I started to think about that lesson on factors, and I realized it is the perfect way to demonstrate the power of Brick Math as a learning system. Here’s why Brick Math works so well to teach elementary math: it’s tactile (kids touch the bricks and build the models themselves), it’s visual (kids can see exactly what the numbers in a math problem represent), and it’s conceptual (kids understand the underlying idea behind the math when they discover it for themselves in a guided program). Let me show you how Brick Math works with that lesson on factors: This lesson models all the factors of 16 and demonstrates perfectly the meaning of “factor." Like all Brick Math lessons, it starts with some basic bricks and a baseplate to build on. Begin by placing one brick that has 16 studs on the baseplate (studs are the bumps on LEGO bricks). This can be a 2x8 brick or a 1x16 brick.The model shows 1 brick with 16 studs, so the multiplication fact shown is 1 x 16 = 16. 16 and 1 are factors of 16. Next, take two bricks that each have 8 studs and place them next to the brick that’s already on the baseplate. It’s best if those two bricks are two different colors. You’ll use either two 2x4 bricks or two 1x8 bricks. Now the model shows 2 (bricks) x 8 (studs) = 16, and that 2 and 8 are also factors of 16. Now, here’s where the Brick Math program really becomes a powerful learning tool. For the next step, ask the student, “Are there 3 bricks that are all the same size that you can use to build the next row?” Let your students try with different bricks. They will demonstrate to themselves that there are none, so 3 can’t be a factor of 16. It’s so important that students discover for themselves while they are learning. That’s what helps them internalize what the math is all about. When they move on to looking for 4 bricks, they’ll find that four 2x2 bricks or 1x4 bricks do the trick. Now, they have 4 (bricks) x 4 (studs) = 16, so 4 is another factor of 16. Have them look again for 5, 6, and 7 bricks that work in the model. They’ll quickly figure out that none of those numbers are factors of 16. They’ll move on to modeling eight 1x2 bricks, with the multiplication fact of 8 x 2 = 16. Finally, they can add sixteen 1x1 bricks to the model to complete all the factors with the multiplication fact of 16 x 1 = 16. When you look at the final model and count the number of bricks, the final model clearly shows the factors of 16: 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16. Dr. Shirley Disseler, developer of the Brick Math method, demonstrates this same lesson in the video below. The concept of factors is key to learning multiplication, division, and fractions, so it’s in all three of the Brick Math books on those subjects: Multiplication, Division, and Basic Fractions. And it (almost) goes without saying: students have fun while they learn! If you teach math or have a student at home who is learning math, check brickmath.com. The website includes videos for both teacher training and direct instruction of students. You can learn more about how Brick Math improves student math test scores and hear what people who are using Brick Math have to say about the program.
Brick Math is a K6 math curriculum that uses LEGO® bricks to model 11 different math subjects: Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Basic Fractions, Basic Measurement, Fraction Multiplication, Fraction Division, Advanced Measurement and Geometry, and Decimals. It works well for math intervention, for enrichment, and as a wholeschool program. Materials are simple and need not be shared between students. It adapts easily to online instruction. Contact us with any questions.
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We know that play is an important part of a child’s life. In fact, a number of eminent scholars from Jean Piaget to Maria Montessori are credited with originating the phrase, “Play is child’s work.” Kids gain so much knowledge about the world through their play activities. According to Susan MacKay, Director of Teaching and Learning for the Portland Children’s Museum, “Learning through play is about continuity; bringing together children’s spheres of lifehome, school, and the wider world over time and through experiences.” Now more than ever, when children’s social and emotional stressors have risen to an all time high, learning through play is key. Learning tools that engage children and link to the world of play add to student motivation. Brick Math uses a wellknown and beloved toy, LEGO® bricks, as a strategic tool for learning K6th grade math. According to Harvard University research (2016), play in the child’s learning environment enriches content understanding and retention of the material. The combination of learning and play helps students develop a deep understanding of the “why” and “how” behind math when they learn with Brick Math. An important idea in learning today is known as “constructionism.” Students construct their knowledge using real experience with materials. When then build their own knowledge, they learn in a deep and lasting way. Constructionism is at the heart of the Brick Math method. Students learn math by building models, discussing why they show the math, and drawing the brick models. It’s a powerful way to putting play back into learning content. Learning math with simple activities through play is one of the best ways for children to naturally develop a love for the subject. Brick Math combines learning with play to result in building a strong math foundation throughout the elementary years. We’re all agreed that students must get a strong math foundation in elementary school if they are to go on with success in STEM fields in upper grades. It’s not about rote memorization of math facts or formulas anymore. The kids who grow up to become computer programmers, scientists, doctors, tech developers—they all get excited by math at an early age and gain a deep understanding of math principles early on. But students differ in their learning styles, and math programs differ in their methods. There are 5 keys to learning elementary math, though, that help students develop that true understanding of math that will carry through to later years. Brick Math uses these strategies in its program that teaches math using LEGO® bricks. It’s easy to teach and fun to learn. Get more information now. Here are five keys to learning math in the elementary school years: 1. Handson Math When young children can see and touch the math, they become far more engaged in learning. Kids are by nature tactile beings who learn by doing. The essence of Brick Math is handson: the program uses LEGO® bricks to model math in subjects that range from Counting, Addition, and Subtraction, through Multiplication, Division, and Fractions, to Measurement, Geometry, and Decimals. When students are able to manipulate the bricks themselves to build models of math problems, they enjoy learning. 2. Teacher Shows the Concept An important start to learning math is for the teacher to show the concept first, and explain it using correct terminology. This sets the students up for learning. In Brick Math, every chapter starts with “Part 1: Show Them How.” The lessons in Part 1 have the students working along with the teacher as he/she shows the math concepts. This works no matter where the students and teacher are physically—students can watch in person or online and work along with the lesson whether they are in the classroom or at home. 3. Students Work on the Concept Learned It’s important that students get practice with the math and quick teacher feedback. That’s how concepts get truly learned. Part 2 in each Brick Math chapter is “Show What You Know,” which gives students many opportunities to work on problems that build on what they have just learned. In the classroom or online, the teacher can review the model the student has built and offer immediate feedback to guide the student toward complete understanding. This is a teaching strategy that works well with elementaryage children: The teacher shows the new idea first, then the students show what they have learned. 4. Students Explain Their Thinking
When students are learning new math concepts, the way they are thinking about the math is critical in their understanding. A key learning strategy is for students to explain their thinking about their math answer in words. This way, the teacher can easily tell if the student is getting the concept. In the Brick Math program, students are frequently asked to explain their thinking, orally or in writing. When students must explain how they arrived at an answer, it’s clear whether or not they have really understood the math. 5. Connect Math to the Real World How many times has a student complained to a teacher, “I’ll never use this kind of math in real life!”? Math is abstract, and its importance to the world around us must be demonstrated regularly when kids are learning in elementary school. Math is far more meaningful when its use is shown through realworld examples. Brick Math includes many problems that show how math is used in everyday life, including the relationship of decimals to money, the measurement of area and perimeter when building a playground, and the division of a pizza to feed a group of people. When students learn early on that math is useful in many common situations, they get comfortable with math in a natural way. That’s the start of a long and happy relationship with math! If you teach math or have a student at home who is learning math, check brickmath.com. The website includes videos for both teacher training and direct instruction of students. You can learn more about how Brick Math improves student math test scores and hear what people who are using Brick Math have to say about the program. Brick Math is a K6 math curriculum that uses LEGO® bricks to model 11 different math subjects: Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Basic Fractions, Basic Measurement, Fraction Multiplication, Fraction Division, Advanced Measurement and Geometry, and Decimals. It works well for math intervention, for enrichment, and as a wholeschool program. Materials are simple and need not be shared between students. It adapts easily to online instruction. Contact us with any questions. Many elementary schools are planning for a combination of inschool and online learning for the upcoming school year. But studies show that students have missed about half the math they should have learned this spring. It’s important that the math instructional methods for the fall carry through from the classroom to the home. Steven Blackburn, writing for District Administration, talks about two key needs for learning math: the use of manipulatives, and the ability for students to share their thinking with teachers and peers. He quotes Trena Wilkerson, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM): “Making math meaningful involves providing tasks and opportunities that allow students to engage in ways that make sense in their world to build upon whatever understanding they have at that moment to do meaningful work.” That’s how Brick Math works. Students build models with a familiar and fun manipulative, LEGO® bricks. Then they share their thinking about the math, both orally and in writing. Wilkerson is clear about the need for communication in math instruction: “There needs to be an open dialogue in learning just to ensure students are engaging with the mathematical principles and making sense of it in their world.” Schools can use the Brick Math curriculum and brick sets on site at school and also send brick sets and student workbooks home for students’ use there. Even students without Internet access can discuss their Brick Math work with teachers via phone or text. Whether in our new virtual classrooms or in real life, students need to learn along with the teacher, using a model to explain and describe the math. Dr. Shirley Disseler, author of the Brick Math curriculum, recently found that most parents of elementary students don’t feel qualified to work with their child in the area of math (23% of 250 respondents). In contrast, 65% felt they could help their child with reading tasks. For math, students need to see the teacher, hear the teacher, and work alongside the teacher whether online or in person. No matter how it is delivered, instruction must provide student engagement that is rooted in manipulative and handson work that is not solely worksheet and app based. Brick Math is a curriculum that helps students learn K6 math in any learning environment. While kids are learning from home, Brick Math helps to make math fun! Dr. Shirley Disseler (aka "Dr. D") has launched a series of videos for students that help them learn K  6 math using LEGO® bricks! In the "Brick Math with Dr. D" videos, Dr. Disseler teaches Brick Math directly to students, showing them the brick modeling techniques and explaining the "why" behind the math. "It's a great way for kids to start using LEGO® bricks to learn math concepts while they're home," says Dr. Disseler. "The lessons are really fun for kids to do, and they feel a great sense of satisfaction when they learn by building along with me as they watch the videos." "Brick Math with Dr. D" videos have lessons in Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Basic Fractions. New videos are being added all the time to cover more math subjects. Says Dr. Disseler, "And parents are welcome to join us—Brick Math is fun for everyone!" The Brick Math method of learning by using LEGO® bricks to model math problems adapts to anywhere kids are learning – it’s a great method to learn K6th grade math at home. It makes math easy to teach and fun to learn! Here are the basics you need to know to use Brick Math at home with your own children: Brick Math is taught by math subject. It corresponds to grade level roughly this way: K2: Counting, Addition, Subtraction 34: Multiplication, Division, Basic Fractions, Basic Measurement 56: Fraction Multiplication, Fraction Division, Advanced Measurement and Geometry, Decimals Choose the subject(s) you need for your children. You can mix up the grade levels, depending on their interest and what they’re learning. There is a Teacher Edition for each subject for you to use. These have all the lessons in chapter format. There is also a Student Edition for each subject, which is a workbook with extra problems, assessments, and a place to keep your child’s work all in one place. These are optional, but they are really useful. The books come in physical paperback versions as well as PDFs that can be downloaded immediately. The LEGO® bricks that are used to model the math are the common sizes and shapes – 1x1, 2x2, 2x4, etc. Each chapter lists the bricks you need to do the lessons in that chapter, and the appendix of each book has a list of all the bricks needed for the whole program. There is a Brick Math brick set you can purchase, but if you have LEGO® bricks at home, feel free to use them! Brick Math has lots of resources for helping parents teach their children with the program. You can start with video lessons, and then follow the Teacher Edition to guide your child through all the lessons. Every Teacher Edition has tips for teaching with Brick Math. The short assessments in every chapter of the Student Editions will help you make sure your child is learning. And, as always, feel free to contact us with your questions – we’re here to help! The concept of Least Common Denominator (LCD) is key to being able to add and subtract with fractions that have unlike denominators or compare the size of different fractions. It's essential for students to thoroughly grasp the idea, and until they do so, they can't move forward with fractions. Modeling with LEGO bricks is the perfect way to teach students how to find the least common denominator. This method from Brick Math, called the "Fraction Train," starts with concrete representation of the math problem using bricks, to teach students exactly where the idea of a common denominator comes from. 1. Start by explaining that the process for finding Least Common Denominator with bricks is called the "Fraction Train." Have students build brick models of 2/3 and 3/4. Label them Fraction 1 and Fraction 2. 2. Discuss the value of the numerators and the denominators of 2/3 and 3/4. Ask students if the wholes are the same, and if not, which whole is larger? Explain that you will be finding the Least Common Denominator so you can compare the fractions. 3. Place one 1x3 brick on the baseplate, showing the denominator of Fraction 1, and under that, a 1x4 brick showing the denominator of Fraction 2. Now it's time to start building your "fraction train." You'll be building out a train of bricks that makes a rectangle. Add enough 1x3 bricks to the top row, and enough 1x4 bricks to the bottom row, until both rows are the same length and the bricks form a rectangle. Count the studs in each row (12) to find the Least Common Denominator—the smallest number that both denominators can divide into evenly. Discuss the fact that 12 is also the equivalent whole for both fractions 2/3 and 3/4. 4. Now it's time to build the equivalent fractions for 2/3 and 3/4, using the Least Common Denominator of 12. Place two 1x12 bricks on the baseplate to represent the LCD of 12 for each fraction. 5. Look at the fraction train again. There are 4 bricks in the top row of the fraction train. This shows the number of 1x2 bricks (from the numerator of Fraction 1) that will model the numerator of the equivalent fraction. Count the studs in the numerator (8) and the denominator (12) . This shows that the equivalent fraction for 2/3 is 8/12. 6. Repeat the process for Fraction 2. Count the studs on the model of the numerator (9) and on the denominator (12). The equivalent fraction for 3/4 is 9/12. 7. Now the equivalent fractions can be compared, since they both have the same denominator. Have students look at the numerators of each fraction and determine which fraction is larger, based on having the larger number of studs in the numerator. Extend the learning by having students draw their models. Have them write a math sentence that compares the two fractions (2/3 <3/4 because 8/12 < 9/12). This lesson from Brick Math's Basic Fractions Using LEGO® Bricks is available FREE as the Brick Math Lesson of the Month for March 2020. Click HERE to sign up for the lesson, including Student Workbook pages.
Whether you are a longtime LEGO® fanatic or new to the wonders of the plastic brick, it’s not hard to understand how well LEGO bricks work as a tool to teach fractions. The bricks can easily show concepts of benchmark fractions (½, ¼, 1/8, etc.), and since many students are familiar with them as a toy, they really enjoy using them in math class. Brick Math’s Basic Fractions Teacher Edition has a full curriculum for teaching fractions using LEGO® bricks. It starts with activities to answer the question “What is a fraction?” and moves through all the fraction topics – benchmark fractions, adding and subtracting fractions, factors, equivalent fractions, finding common denominators, and mixed numbers. Benchmark fractions (½, ¼, 1/8, ¾) are important for students to learn early on in their exploration of fractions. These are fractions they will see often, and understanding their value will help them make estimates in reallife situations. Benchmark fractions will also help students recognize that fractions are made from differentsized wholes. This is key to understanding fractions. Here’s how to teach benchmark fractions using the Brick Math technique: 1. Start by placing a 2x4 LEGO® brick on a baseplate to represent the whole. Make sure students know that because there are 8 studs on this brick, it represents the whole of 8, and that is the denominator of the fraction. 2. Have students find a brick that shows ½ of this whole. Have them look for two bricks that are the same size and together take up the same space as the whole 2x4 brick when placed together. They should find either two 2x2 bricks or two 1x4 bricks. Explain that one of these bricks represents ½. The 1x4 or 2x2 brick has 4 studs, so the brick shows the numerator 4 of the fraction modeled here – 4/8 (or ½). 3. Ask students to find ¼ of the whole of 8 in the same way, with four bricks that take up the same space as the 2x4 brick. They should find four 1x2 bricks, and understand that one of these bricks shows ¼. With 2 studs on this brick, it models the numerator of the fraction 2/8 (or ¼). 4. Have students do the same process to find the brick that represents 1/8. Then have students place these benchmark fractions bricks next to each other, to show the whole, ½, ¼, and 1/8 – and that each fraction is half of the one preceding it. 5. To show ¾, have students look for the brick that shows ¼, then find three of them and put them next to the whole. See if your students make the connection to the 6 studs on these bricks as the numerator of the fraction 6/8. They’ll do this by showing that the three ¼ bricks are equivalent to one 2x3 brick. Brick Math is a complete K – 6 curriculum that uses LEGO® bricks to teach math. Besides Basic Fractions, Brick Math topics include: Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Basic Measurement, Fraction Multiplication, Fraction Division, Advanced Measurement and Geometry, and Decimals.
Try Brick Math with your students with a FREE Brick Math lesson every month! You'll be able to download a PDF that includes the teacher instructions for a lesson, plus the student pages that go along with the lesson. It's a great way to test out the Brick Math program with your students. Once you've signed up, you'll receive a new Brick Math lesson every month.
Click here to sign up now for the monthly free lesson plans and student pages to build your Brick Math library! We'd like to get feedback about Brick Math from people who have tried the curriculum. If you're a teacher, administrator, or parent who has used Brick Math with a student, please take a few moments to complete our short survey.
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