Sometimes concepts are best illustrated with a project. We made a LEGO Zoo while learning about area and perimeter and it was a perfect fit.
This is just one of many math-related uses of LEGO bricks. It a great manipulative for both addition and multiplication.
We started by estimating and then figuring out haw many studs are on the large grey baseplate. Once we had the total area, we divided it into thirds (this was his vision of how it should look.) We then divided up the space for each of the animals.
In planning the project, I stressed the words “area” and “perimeter,” which can be tricky for students to remember. We talked about how much space the animals need: “Does the bear need a bigger area than that?” We talked about the fencing: “Should we put windows on the perimeter?” Using different colors helped Z to visualize which parts were area and what was the perimeter.
We talked a little about how you can know the area by counting the number of studs on each side of a plate. So a two-by-four plate has eight total studs. This was probably the first time he saw multiplication written out as 2 x 4 = 8. I think area is a great way to introduce the concept of multiplication because it’s so tangible. Those “two groups of four” style illustrations seem somewhat unnatural to a child who has no experience planning for large groups of people. And in fact, back when I taught 4th grade, we introduced multiplication as “arrays.”
But back to the zoo! It was loads of fun building it. I sketched out the plans in his math notebook and we worked together to make the basic layout. He filled in most of the fun details.I think the penguin enclosure is my favorite.