Blocks are an essential part of any early childhood experience, whether in a classroom or at home.
As children play with blocks and construct towers, they discover how shapes fit together and how two smaller blocks might equal one of the larger blocks if they run out of smaller blocks. They learn balance and motor skills, and they practice creativity and design.
Think about Legos. Legos are all about discovery and figuring out what you can build. When we were growing up, you just had a big pile of Legos and you made up your own car or your own plane, instead of the step-by-step instructions that come with Legos today that tend to limit creative thinking. When we built Legos, we were also doing a lot with balancing. If we wanted the car to actually be able to go, we had to make sure we had the right amount of bricks on either side so it was level and all four wheels touched the ground so it could roll.
Blocks are amazing and there are so many different kinds available. But wouldn’t it be great if there were blocks that could specifically support play in math and allow our students participate in mathematical self-discovery? There are!
SumBlox were designed by a graduate student who was having a hard time engaging an elementary student that he was tutoring in math. He was trying to think of something that would help the young student understand how numbers relate to each other and he came up with this set of large wooden blocks where each is a different size based on their value. As children play with these number blocks, they can connect many of the foundational mathematical concepts that we know are so important.
There are so many early childhood activities students could do with these blocks! Each set of SumBlox comes with some basic activity cards, but you can purchase additional lesson cards and the SumBlox website offers some sample lessons to get you started.
Ordering numbers. Simply putting the numbers in order and creating a “train” from 1 to 10 is great for number recognition. Using the SumBlox, this activity has the added benefit of helping not only recognize the numeral, but at least begin to recognize the value that goes along with it as they can see that a 10 is much bigger than a 1.
Addition (Decomposing Numbers.) This is a big kindergarten skill where we’re taking a number and being able to show all the different parts. For example, the number 8 could be broken into 5 and 3, 4 and 4, 6 and 2, 7 and 1. Because the SumBlox are proportional in size, a student could put the 5 and the 3 next to the 8 and see that they are equal heights and so equal values.
In addition, kids can figure out how to make sums of 10. They can start with one of the big 10 blocks and see how it can be decomposed into various parts, such as 5 and 5, 6 and 4, etc. This could also be extended to include more than two addends, such as using 5 and 2 and 3 to make 10.
Bridging (Balanced Equations). Challenging students to build a bridge is a wonderful activity, especially in 1st grade where we’re working on thi
ngs like “Does 4+3 equal the same as 5+3?” Children could use the SumBlox to build the equation and see that they’re actually not equal because they aren’t the same height. They could then adjust the blocks until they determine what would make them equal. Kids could create balanced equations where they build 9 and 1 on one side and put 7 and 3 on the other side and be able to connect the two with a bridge because the two amounts are equal and the tops are level.
Multiplication (Repeated Addition). In 2nd grade, SumBlox could be used to help kids understand the concept that multiplication is the same as repeated addition. So if we had 9 and we stacked 3, 3, and 3 next to it, I would know that 3+3+3 = 9 or we could also say 3×3 = 9. I could also put 9 of the 1 blocks next to the 9 and it would be equal in height, so 9×1=9. In this case, they’ll be able to see how multiplication represents equal groups. This video starts with the student doing multiplication with the SumBlox.
Fractions (Part of the Whole). Because of the way the blocks are proportioned, if I put a 5 next to the 8, I can see that it’s worth ⅝ of the 8. With this concept, kids can see the fractional parts and even play with equivalency. For more tutorials on how to use SumBlox with fractions, check their YouTube channel.
Personal Experience. One of our SIS4Teachers team got a set of these blocks to use with her 4-year-old and he loves them! He was so excited to open up the box and right away, he noticed the different sizes of blocks, which led to some really rich conversation. Being a Lego builder, it didn’t take long for him to dive in and start building towers. At first, he wanted to build exactly what was on the activity card and was hesitant to branch out, but as he got more comfortable, he started getting creative. His creations weren’t limited to towers – sometimes he made a boat, and one of the numbers was the person who lived in the boat, sometimes it was a jet. But regardless of what he was building, his was able to figure out which blocks he needed to make things the right heights. These blocks are engaging enough to captivate a whirlwind four-year-old for a solid 30 minutes!
At an early age, while kids are “just playing,” they can begin to understand numbers. They can understand the relationships between numbers and the value of numbers. SumBlox would be a great resource, not only for schools, but for parents to use at home to encourage play and discovery as well!
For more pictures, lesson plans, and pricing, or to order a set or two, go to http://www.sumblox.com
(Please note, SIS4Teachers is not affiliated with SumBlox and does not make any money if you order! We just found a great math tool that we thought you might want to know about!)