by Shirley Disseler
Some students just don't like math. Or so they say. But I have found that almost all students will enjoy learning math if we make it meaningful to them. That means building a knowledge base from real experience. The way to do this is to teach math in a handson way. A simple tool that really helps math become meaningful to students: the LEGO® brick. I’ve been teaching math using LEGO® bricks for years, and the bricks are the best manipulatives I’ve found for helping students discover how math works. Research suggests that a major reason why students don’t achieve in math is their lack of motivation and engagement. It’s not what we are teaching that doesn’t grab students’ attention, but how we teach. But when you give your students a tool for modeling math concepts that just happens to be a familiar toy for most kids, you start your math lesson off on the right foot. Students experiment with the bricks, trying out strategies themselves until they discover a solution. Studies have shown that students learn best when they construct their own knowledge from real experiences that produce an outcome. In the educational research, this is called the “constructionist” or “constructivist” teaching technique. LEGO® bricks can be manipulated by students to help them understand early math concepts such as counting and cardinality. Models of addition and subtraction problems make the math clear to young students. Modeling with bricks is also the perfect way for students to learn the meaning of math concepts such as fractions, multiplication, and division. A student told me one day, "I finally know what a fraction is. I can see it!" That’s what handson math is all about. I have found that when teachers teach at a slower pace, employing realworld problems and using manipulatives such as LEGO® bricks, students are motivated and engaged in the math. They develop a “need to know.” True learning happens when students want to know more. In many of today’s classrooms, teachers are running against a clock to get as much math taught as quickly as possible. But it doesn’t matter how much math you teach unless you also make sure that students are learning the content along the way. Making math meaningful to students is the surest way to engage them in learning and help them achieve. A handson teaching method using LEGO® bricks as manipulatives to build models of math concepts really works. Wouldn’t it be exciting to turn a student who says he doesn’t like math to one who asks you, “Can we do more math today?”
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We love celebrating with our authors, which is why we're super excited about the coverage Shirley Disseler is receiving from her Brick Math Series. Dr. Shirley Disseler, associate professor in the School of Education at High Point University, published the first title in a 10book LEGO series aimed at helping teachers and parents teach math in an engaging and accessible way. Disseler is currently hosting a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Camp at HPU for children in the community. See the video below! Dr. Shirley Disseler, Associate Professor at High Point University in High Point, NC, is the country's leading expert on using LEGO® bricks to teach math. The first three books of her new tenbook Brick Math Series showing how to teach math using her handson methods are now available:
Each teaching book has a companion student edition that gives additional practice to your students to reinforce the math concepts as well as assessments for the teacher to gauge student progress. This new handson method to teach fractions, multiplication, and division has been successful for students in North Carolina and other states. The books offer stepbystep guidance for teachers and students, making it very easy to start teaching math using LEGO® bricks as the perfect manipulative. Research has shown that manipulatives such as LEGO® bricks help students learn. The Journal of Instructional Pedagogies and the NRICH project of the University of Cambridge have both found that a handson approach to teaching math is one of the best ways for students to learn.
As the school year begins, you may be searching for better instructional methods for your teachers. The new Brick Math Series is an effective, handson teaching method that will get your students engaged and excited about learning math. 
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