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.
The Teacher and Student Editions of Basic Measurement Using LEGO® Bricks have just been published! Digital editions of these books are now available on Kindle and Teacher Pay Teachers. Printed versions are available on Amazon and direct from Brigantine Media. This is the ninth book in the Brick Math series. Two more books will be published in January 2019: Decimals and Advanced Measurement & Geometry. These books will complete the Brick Math K-6 curriculum.
Announcing four brand-new books in the Brick Math Series: Fraction Multiplication and Fraction Division, Teacher and Student Editions. These new books complete the Brick Math module for fractions, along with the original Basic Fractions, Teacher and Student Editions.
The subject of fractions is one of the most challenging math topics for elementary students. It's also one that receives the most attention in standardized testing. But students are often confused by the concept of a fraction and how to perform mathematical operations with fractions. The Brick Math techniques that model fractions with LEGO® bricks are a revolutionary way to help students develop true mastery of the topic.
Basic Fractions has been the biggest seller in the Brick Math Series, and many teachers have asked for the techniques to teach multiplication and division of fractions. Now those books are available, so you can extend the Brick Math program to upper elementary students.
In the next few months, the entire Brick Math K - 6 curriculum will be available. Upcoming math subjects include: Basic Measurement (December 2018), Advanced Measurement and Geometry, and Decimals (both January 2019). These books are now available for preorder.
The Forsyth County, North Carolina, PAGE (Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education) chapter has recommended Brick Math to parents looking for math enrichment for their gifted students. Here's what they say about Brick Math in their May 2018 newsletter:
The Brick Math Series, by Dr. Shirley Disseler at High Point University. Dr. Disseler is Associate Professor and Chair of the HPU Department of Elementary and Middle Grades Education where she also serves as STEM Coordinator. She has authored a series of math books which provides activities which can help students learn the basics of the K-5 math curriculum by modeling with LEGO bricks. Specific math subjects include Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, and Fractions. When they are taught with the activities in these books, students develop a deeper understanding of the concepts that are the foundation of true mathematical knowledge.
Find the website at http://www.brickmathseries.com.
Dr. Disseler has designed the program to be applicable in a variety of situations: enrichment for gifted students, remedial for struggling learners, in a small-group setting, and as classroom curriculum.
Congratulations to Donors Choose! Last week, the organization received $29 million from Ripple to fund every project listed!
That got us thinking about teachers who might want to fund the purchase of Brick Math products for their classrooms though Donors Choose. Here's the good news: it's easy to do!
Create your Donors Choose project and use the Brick Math website to determine the costs for your project. All the Brick Math products—books and brick sets—are available through one of the Donors Choose vendors, so the order will be seamless for you.
We're big fans of Donors Choose. Started by a teacher in 2000 who was trying to figure out how to get books for his students that his school wouldn't pay for (sound familiar?), the idea has exploded, and today, more than 600,000 requests have been fulfilled.
Naturally, we hope your school will be able to purchase Brick Math for you. But if you're ready to start a Donors Choose project for Brick Math materials, click here.