This article will give you 8 fun ideas for teaching math with LEGO in your classroom or home school. The humble of using LEGO brick may seem like nothing more than a small rectangular chunk of plastic built for playtime. In reality, these little LEGO bricks have long been regarded as an excellent and fun tool in helping kids to build spatial awareness, proportional awareness, and so much more. Today, using LEGOs has become a key player in helping young kids learn abstract math concepts by making them more tangible and easy-to-understand. Educators know this as LEGO math.
LEGO math hasn’t just been shown to bridge the gap in understanding with abstract math concepts. They have been proving to promote a more positive attitude towards solving math problems of all types. Using LEGOs makes math fun, and it also encourages perseverance and teamwork, something any educator would agree is paramount in a student’s overall well-being. LEGO math is an amazing hands-on resource that engages kids who often feel intimidated by new math concepts. These little rectangles allow kids to feel comfortable and motivate them to tackle new math challenges with ease.
How can you best utilize LEGO math activities in your classroom, home, or project-based learning activities? Below, we’ve rounded up some key ideas for implementing LEGO math with your students. The goal is to touch on the myriad of ways in which these colorful LEGO bricks can build-up math skills and provide a bit of comfort when key math concepts feel overwhelming.
8 Ideas and Concepts For Teaching Math With Legos
One of the most versatile aspects of using LEGO for teaching new math concepts is that these little LEGO bricks can help various kids at all levels. Use these LEGO bricks for kids who learn to count or even those moving on to multiplication, fractions, and more. Let’s take a look at some core ideas for teaching math with LEGO.
1. Teach Numbers with LEGO Duplo Blocks
For young kids, the most obvious math goal is to learn familiarity with numbers and count from 1 to 10 with ease. This is typically a core goal for preschool-aged kids or even those who are about to enter kindergarten. Introducing these young students to numbers to ten in a fun way is the foundation for these kids to build their entire math career. Yet, many kids struggle to feel engaged when learning numbers, often feeling frustrated instead.
This is where LEGO math can be a lifesaver for parents and teachers alike. Start by picking up a pack of LEGO Duplo Blocks. These blocks are a bit bigger than your standard LEGO, which is ideal for smaller hands. Once you have your LEGO bricks, you have a few options for teaching numbers. The first is to create counting number mats for DUPLO using one of the many free printables online. These mats will encourage students to line up LEGO bricks to form the numbers on the mat. Eventually, they’ll garner familiarity with how each number looks.
Once the student is familiar with the numbers, they can create the numbers with the LEGO math bricks using LEGO baseplate. You can also choose to write numbers on the side of each LEGO or DUPLO block and have your child learn how to line up the numbers in order. From there, you can have them count each brick. This is a nice tangible way to help young kids connect with such an abstract concept as counting without the frustration that can often accompany new ideas.
2. Young Kids Learn Counting On With LEGO Duplo
Young kids who learn how to count may need the help of a LEGO DUPLO starter set and some dry erase markers. You can teach 2+ age children to count to 20 with ease. All you have to do is write the numbers from one to 20 on the flat size of 20 LEGO or DUPLO bricks with the dry-erase marker. Start with the brick labeled as number one and roll a dice. Kids can then add the number indicated on the dice with bricks to their stack.
The goal is to have the numbers in the correct order. The idea is to have the children race to get their stack to 20 the fastest correctly. As children learn more numbers, you can incorporate more and more bricks to your game. This is a great way for them to learn counting on up to 100 without the often boring repetition that comes with memorizing such a core practice.
3. How to Teach Multiplication and Division with LEGO
Any teacher primarily focusing on second or third-grade math knows that teaching key concepts for multiplication often involves the tedious drawing or building arrays. That’s because these arrays are fundamental in teaching the principles needed to teach multiplication successfully. Of course, just as building such arrays and examples is frustrating for teachers, learning multiplicative math concepts is often overwhelming for students. Use LEGO math as an easy tool to help students explore the fundamentals without frustration.
Here, kids and teachers can utilize standard LEGO blocks for LEGO math to explore square numbers, area models, multiplication properties, and abstract math concepts like factoring. You can utilize LEGO baseplates in various colors to help with commutative properties, division, multiplication, and so much more. Multiplication can be difficult to grasp, but if students can see square numbers in a tangible way how these properties work, concepts suddenly become much more clear.
4. Teach Place Value with LEGO
One of the most important math concepts a young learner must grasp is the idea of place value. Use LEGOs to teach place value. Place value is the value best represented by a digit in a number based on its position within that number. While it seems easy in theory, teaching this math to kids is often an exercise in patience. However, if you use LEGO math, you can make your students learn the process. All you need is a place value mat (you can purchase or make yourself) and a classic LEGO brick set.
From there, have students separate the LEGO bricks by ones, tens, and other place values. For example, if the number you wanted to represent were 57, the student would place five, 10-brick towers in the ten’s column and seven individual small LEGO bricks in the one’s column on the mat. This is a simple, tangible way for students to visually and tactically learn place value in a pretty apparent way.
5. Kids Learn Fractions with LEGOs
Use LEGOs to teach fractions. Of all the math concepts that tend to trip up and overwhelm students, fractions are arguably the worst. Even the best students tend to look at fractions like a dog with three-heads, especially once a teacher starts talking about adding fractions, wholes, and fractions of a set. To offset the anxiety of math that tends to revolve around fractions, tangible learning is a must. While pattern blocks can work, LEGO math works better and boasts more possibilities for engagement.
For example, you can use the different sized standard LEGO bricks to show concepts such as one whole, one-half, one-fourth, one-eighth, and three-fourths. You can then take these differently sized bricks to demonstrate adding or subtracting fractions by using LEGOs and put them together or taking them apart.
Kids Can Learn Fractions with LEGO book.
If you’re unsure where to start, you can pick up a book on learning fractions with LEGO math. This will help deep dive into all of the key ways in which the teacher can teach fractions using LEGO bricks as an aid.
6. Teach Addition and Subtraction with using LEGOs
You have to walk before you can run, and you must know how to add or subtract before you can get into more demanding math concepts. When you use LEGO math, it provides a simple and easy way to teach both concepts in an engaging way that gives students a tangible representation of how each concept works. Here you can either use a Classic Brick Box or larger DUPLO blocks to teach basic principles. In our opinion, DUPLO blocks tend to work best for grades two and below. To make the most of your LEGO math for addition and subtraction, start by printing some LEGO math addition/subtraction cards onto cardstock.
These can be found via a simple google search. Each LEGO card will have a certain number of colored bricks that will need to be added or subtracted to another visually represented stack of colored LEGO bricks. For example, some cards will have three red bricks plus five blue bricks. The student’s role is to put three red LEGO bricks together and then five blue bricks together in separate stacks. Then they add the LEGO bricks together—the same works for subtraction. LEGO mats can come in handy here.
7. How Kids Can Learn Data (Mean, Median, Mode) with LEGO
Use LEGOs to teach abstract math concepts like mean, median, and mode can prove a bit frustrating to students since all are various ways to express an average. When finding the mean, kids are taught to add all of the data in a set together and then divide them by the total number of data points involved. It isn’t the most daunting math concept, yet most students struggle to understand why this method is vital in finding an overall average.
By visually representing mean via LEGO brick towers of disparate heights, students can see with their own eyes how “mean” or average is best represented. Here, you only need standard LEGO blocks in a few key primary colors. We like to stick with the classic LEGO set here. Once a student understands “mean” or “average,” getting a grasp on the range, mode, and median is more easily grasped.
8. Teach the Time with a LEGO Clock
One of the best ways to use LEGO math in your classroom or home school is often overlooked is the concept of telling time. In our digital world, too many students struggle to learn how analog clocks work. LEGOS can help to bring the clock to life and make the concept easier to understand. Here, you’ll need to start with a few medium or small-sized LEGO baseplates. This can be any color you choose.
Then you’ll need a few of the long thin LEGOS from the standard set to form the hands of the clock. You’ll also need a small flat square to place them upon so that the hands can move. From there, place numbers around the base plate to form the numbers on a clock. Give kids a time and let them use the clock to set the time on the LEGO clock correctly. This allows kids to get a hands-on feel for how clocks work while familiarizing themselves with the numbers on the LEGO clock face.
LEGO Math Best Practices
Before diving into the world of LEGO math, there are a few practices and tips to bear in mind. After all, so many kids associate LEGOs with fun playtime or downtime. The most important distinction you can make right out of the gate is that these particular LEGOS are for exploring, not playing. How can this be accomplished when all students want to build imaginary worlds by using LEGOs?
Before you use LEGO math in math lessons, give kids a chance to explore their LEGO bricks. This means let them have some fun and let them play around for a while. Even if all they do is build castle towers and pretend worlds. Giving this block of time will allow them to settle down for the actual math. Once they have finished this time to explore, let them know that the LEGOs are now for school, not play. Of course, teaching math by using LEGOs is often easier said than done.
Another practice to bear in mind is how you’ll store your LEGOS after using LEGOs in your classroom or home school? Don’t just dump them all into a LEGO storage case and call it a day.
Instead, separate your bricks into plastic bags or bins based on the math lessons. Store any additional math flashcards, math mats, or base plates into the correct bin/baggie with the perfect number of bricks. This will save you plenty of headaches and frustration down the line. It also allows students to practice concepts on their own during free time. All they have to do is select a bag or bin and get to learning LEGO math!