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 real-life situations. Benchmark fractions will also help students recognize that fractions are made from different-sized 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.