Acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul wrote about the tremendous value in solving problems using real, 3-D objects in the New York Times Sunday, June 13. It’s so applicable to Brick Math, we just had to quote a little of the article:
“Three-dimensional space offers additional opportunities for offloading mental work and enhancing the brain’s powers. When we turn a problem to be solved into a physical object that we can interact with, we activate the robust spatial abilities that allow us to navigate through real-world landscapes. This suite of human strengths, honed over eons of evolution, is wasted when we sit still and think.
“This holds true for a wide variety of problem types — including basic arithmetic, complex reasoning, planning and challenges that require creative insight. People who are permitted to manipulate concrete tokens representing elements of the problem to be solved bear less of a cognitive load and enjoy increased working memory. They learn more and are better able to transfer their learning to new situations. They are less likely to engage in symbol pushing, or moving numbers and words around in the absence of understanding. They are more motivated and engaged and experience less anxiety. They even arrive at correct answers more quickly.”
[italics and boldface are ours]
This is the essence of the Brick Math method. Students model K – 6th grade math problems using LEGO bricks, and in doing so, they activate their brains and really learn what the math means.
Imagine building this brick model of dividing 24 by 6:
The brick model demonstrates the concept of dividing a set of 24 into 4 sets of 6. Using the 3-D bricks to model the problem helps a student, in the words of writer Paul, "navigate through real-world landscapes." Students put this another way: "I can SEE the math!"
Later, the teacher introduces the number sentence 24 ÷ 6 = 4 so students learn how to write the problem using numerals. This problem is from Division Using LEGO® Bricks.
Brick Math methods are based on learning theory from a number of leading experts. The program has been tested on students and shown to improve how well they learn math.
Brick Math is a K-6 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 homeschooling, math intervention, enrichment, and as a whole-school program. Materials are simple and affordable.
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.