After-school Club at Livingston Avenue School Ignites Students' Interest in Science
With help from a grant from the CFEE, Bloomingdale Avenue School is bolstering math education in a way that students can’t help but love.
The grant paid for 12 Lego MoreToMath kits, which present students with challenging problems while also showing them that math is more than just numbers on a chalkboard. Piecing together Legos to solve problems, the students get absorbed in math the same way they get absorbed in play and gain a new perspective on this sometimes-dreaded subject.
“They realize, ‘Oh, Legos are math. I’m doing math all the time,’” said Diane Cruz, a second-grade teacher and co-applicant for the grant. “Legos just in themselves get them excited, so it definitely makes math less scary.”
The Lego sets are designed to help students learn abstract math concepts that can be difficult to grasp at a young age. They include curriculum materials and interactive software.
The kits are used in both first- and second-grade classrooms. Mrs. Cruz and another teacher, Karen Ferraioli, sought CFEE funding for the kits because they promote problem solving, critical thinking, and logical reasoning skills through hands-on work while also supporting Common Core requirements.
The class has used everyday objects for math practice, but the Lego kits allow for more advanced lessons in spatial awareness, measurement, counting by tens, algebraic thinking, and other skills.
Using the Legos, students make things that reflect a theme—animals, sports, food, the outdoors—and that require them to apply their math skills to the number of circular studs on each piece. The students might need to build a snake 42 studs long that has a white brick in the middle, for instance, or fit a 60-stud “running track” onto a Legos plane that, at first glance, doesn’t seem big enough to accommodate it.
Students build their reasoning skills by discussing and explaining their solutions to problems; the kits also inspire teamwork and perseverance among students. “When you have the Legos, they’re willing to try more and do more,” Mrs. Cruz said.
Breaking out MoreToMath creates a wave of enthusiasm that sweeps up all the kids, even those who are normally quiet or reticent. “Everyone is excited when I take them out, even though they don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. “It gets them really talking.”