Learning math through Lego | AspenTimes.com

Learning math through Lego

Michael Appelgate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – There are about 62 Lego bricks for each one of the world’s 6 billion people.

That number surprised Steve Durso. But his son, Niccolas, couldn’t care less.

Niccolas was one of more than 100 Aspen students who came for the Lego Education Showcase on Tuesday in the Aspen Middle School cafeteria. Just in kindergarten, Niccolas was busy constructing whatever was in his imagination at the time.

“He just sits down, and he’s so focused on it,” Steve said. “It amazes me that he can just sit down and whatever it is, just build something.”

That was the goal for Caroline Hanson, event coordinator and a teacher at Aspen Middle School: to show that the school district is offering an exciting new aspect of curriculum to get kids engaged in higher learning.

Hanson is one of 26 teachers across the nation on the Lego education advisory panel. She received a grant from Lego to show the program to children and their parents through this event. The grant included 18 boxes of Lego pieces and posters to help promote the showcase.

“There’s a lot of negativity about what kids can and can’t do,” Hanson said. “You come here and you watch these kids start building, you see that they have an innate curiosity and creativity. Lego just wants to celebrate that.”

According to Hanson, what Lego Education contributes to learning is the mathematical component. In seventh grade the students are building Lego robots. But they aren’t building just for fun. They complete math worksheets that relate directly to each piece they use. If something doesn’t fit in their actual project, they realize that their math was wrong and go back and figure it out.

“If you can do this much with little pieces of plastic, what about if there were real problems or issues we need to talk about?” Hanson said. “There are some good thinkers who can look at and imagine a solution, and that translates to problem solving later.”

During this event, a group of fifth graders were showing off their Lego NXT robots. Students placed robots in a rectangular ring and programmed them to try and force another robot off the end of the platform. This requires working with a light sensor and many other design features that get kids thinking about mechanics.

“I think it’s really exciting because this is engineering, and this is the future,” said Wendy Blakeslee, whose son Nathan is in fifth grade. “I think it’s really neat that this opportunity is in their fifth-grade classroom.”

“It’s more than Legos, it’s robotics,” added Lisa Bush, whose son Sam also is in fifth grade. “They are programming these things to do different tasks so they’re learning a lot of skills.”

Hanson hopes that more parents like Blakeslee and Bush, along with the Aspen Education Foundation, can recognize the worth the program has in children’s education. She said that when school budgets get tight, this is one program worth keeping.

As for Niccolas and his father, they have a few more years of playing with the shiny brick blocks until he can start building robots.

“It can help him in a lot of different things,” Steve said. “It’s great for his mental development, using different parts of his brain. As long as he has a lot of different interests, that’s great.”

mappelgate@aspentimes.com


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