Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Base-10 System

You might think he's just a kid, playing with Legos. But you'd be wrong - this activity is helping Owen understand base-10 mathematics, something he wouldn't care to do unless Legos were involved.

So what happened was, our friend Nicole issued a challenge this week connected with our weekly math/science class: to bring something representing the number 100. Of course, Owen's mind went immediately to Legos.

We started by choosing 100 Lego pieces, a harder challenge than it seems. Each time Owen started counting out pieces, he'd lose track somewhere in the early double-digits. I showed him how to keep track, placing the pieces into 10-piece piles:

At which point both kids agreed, that's not a lot of Legos. As Luke pointed out, the minifigs alone are 8 pieces each! Owen wasn't sure we would be able to build the space station he wanted to bring to math this week. Here he is getting started:

And, he used every piece to make a pretty fancy space station.

I loved doing this because of all the math chat we had while working, counting by tens, estimating, seeing the light dawn about how the base-10 system works, and watching Owen realize that each tiny piece counts as 1, however big or small.

Also, once we got going, Owen treated it as a game; how much easier math would be for me, if only I could have treated it as a game.


Sparklee said...

This is a great idea! I have a couple of Lego-crazy kids who would love to do a project like this!

Wow, the minifigs are 8 pieces? I never realized that!

jugglingpaynes said...

This reminds me of helping Sierra understand place value recently. We used pennies, dimes, and dollar coins (she likes money.)

Love Owen's space station!

Peace and Laughter,

Rana said...

Tell me about it. Placement was one of the hardest things for me in math when I was young. I was thinking about how to explain this to the kids. I love the Lego idea. Karen, thanks so much for sharing this with us. I was going to use money too since they are trying to save up for a few things.

candyn said...

Oh, I love this. My kids would really get into this sort of thing. It would likely bring the lesson to mind whenever they play Legos afterward as well. I like to combine music, art and math whenever I can, but toys and math would be even more appealing to the kids. Thanks for sharing!