Math always has and continues to be that one subject that plagues so many students worldwide. I remember back when I was in school, my younger years saw ease in math while as I got older, different subjects and interests took over and my math skills struggled. I don’t know if it was a result of my lack of interest, a lack of foreseeable value in what I was learning, or whether it was simply not for me to master. Maybe if we had used Lego in school, like you’re going to see below, my interest could have been piqued a little more.
According to Joseph Ganem, Ph.D, students, in the western world at least, have a hard time with math and he thinks he knows why. But before we get there, when it comes to school there’s a common argument that brings forth the value of what we learn, “...how much of the math that we learn do we really need to know?” While I agree with this type of questioning, I also think that when you look at a subject like physics, one has to have a great understanding of math to excel within it. And when you look at everything you use regularly, your car, blender, washing machine, an airplane, and so forth, we see that physics is a very important part of our society. So in turn we have to keep training capable physicists whose foundation is largely based in mathematics.
On the other hand, I feel like some people have a much greater interest in certain subjects than others, and also have certain tendencies towards subjects that others do not. So trying to get everyone to do the same thing, be the same, and exceed at the same thing is probably not only impractical but also unnatural. But that’s a whole other argument.
Joseph Ganem, Ph.D. believes that some of the major issues when it comes to kids having trouble learning math relates to our teaching styles. We confuse difficulty with mathematical rigor. He believes that teaching kids math in a way that requires an authority to be there all the time doesn’t allow for rigorous thinking. The fact that we are mistaking process for understanding. He believes that just because a student can perform a technique that solves a difficult problem doesn’t mean that he or she understands the problem. And finally, he believes we are teaching concepts that are developmentally inappropriate. We are teaching kids math that is beyond their normal developmental abilities. 
I agree with much of what Ganem brings forth in his arguments but I can also hear people touting “but my kids can do it just fine at their age!” They’re right, some children are much more capable than others at different ages and with different subjects. This goes back to the trouble with educating children in batches based on their age. Not only do we all develop at different times, but our interests can also be very different at those times. Trying to force everyone into one box only stunts learning and creates frustration and disinterest.
But this again is a whole other conversation. Education in general is a huge conversation and it’s inspiring to see people doing it differently.
Use Lego To Teach Math
Lego is unreal. I used to play with Lego all the time, and still do from time to time. Anything from imagination, to logic, to creativity, and more are all stimulated and developed with Lego.
One school teacher, Alycia Zimmerman, took it one step further by using Lego to develop her class’ basic math skills in ways that is very easy for younger minds, especially visual ones.
Learning styles are important to consider and so if you are trying to find the right words or ways to teach math, consider using some of the activities Alycia uses to help teach basic math.
Part vs Whole
Here are a couple of links you can use to do this with your children:
Download the LEGO Part-Part-Total Six and Ten Frame template.
Download the LEGO Part-Part-Total Diagram template.
Download the Equivalent Fractions Exploration with LEGO activity.
Download the Multiplication and Division Exploration with LEGO
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