Monday, August 10, 2009

Place Value with LEGOS

Emily was beside herself with impatience to start school. So the other day I printed out some freebie math worksheets for her -- worksheets for place value, skip counting, and other first-grader stuff.  We worked through the place value worksheets in nothing flat.

6 tens and _____ ones = 67

7 tens and 9 ones = ______

And etcetera.  Emily picked it up immediately.  But later, when I quizzed her orally, she couldn't do it.  I realized that she had recognized a pattern, but had not grasped the concept.  Hmmm... what could we use to SHOW her place value?  How about ... Legos?

First we made bricks of 10-piecers, figuring out all the different ways to make 10.  With Legos you can't do two 5-piecers together, or 9+1, but you can do 6+4 and 8+2 in several different ways, with different shaped pieces.  Or you can combine colors to get 5+5 and 9+1 and all the other combos you need.  Emily helped me make ten 10-piecers.  Then we dug down to the bottom of the bucket for the 1-piecers and scrounged up a dozen or so.

Since she already knew how to count by 10's, we did that, touching one 10-piecer Lego brick for 10, 20, 30, up to 100.  Then I showed her that there were 100 Lego brick "bumps" in that pile.  I saw the light bulb go on for her.  (I do love that moment!) Then we made two-digit numbers with them.  Twenty-three equals two 10-piecers and three 1-piecers.  That was easy!  This is too easy, Mom.  What else can we do with them?  We can add them. Oh neat!  And that is how we made our own (cheap) version of Math-U-See.  Next week we'll do addition with carrying.


  1. Thanks for the informative comment you left on my blog :O) I wanted to say I am not really as 'organized' as I appear, LoL. I am just sort of picky when it comes to doing it right once we've started. I have to agree that unschooling seems like it would be difficult without a lot of money, and also a homebody such as me. We don't go very many places, except some weekends, and I just can't see them learning enough with only unschooling. Anyway, I love your blog and want to keep checking back... thanks again, bye for now!

  2. Love those light bulb moments! We did the same thing with popcorn (that was long before we ever heard of MUS).

  3. I love hearing about new ways to make math visual. We are MUS users, and I can see the difference the blocks have made in my kids' understanding of the concepts.

    Thank you for your advice on the table-top map! I had to laugh at your comment, because I too can't figure out what blog I first saw that idea. I thought I had bookmarked it, but apparently I forgot. So your comment was very helpful.


    Kellie @ Blue House Academy

  4. We are at the same place with our youngest, and I finally figured out a great use for those color-coded bears I paid so much for. We can talk about sets of ten, and it's easy for her to count because of the colors. We've also used colored pasta as well--the kids didn't like the flavor, but they made great manipulatives.


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