LEGO is the key to all learning. Okay, not literally, but my kids flip out when I grab the LEGO Bricks during school time. They get so excited. So of course we had to do LEGO Place Value when that topic came up!

Let me back up a bit. I took a challenge to minimalize my life. We had this plan to move into a bigger place and have a school room and all that. My husband and I decided we’d rather save our money, get a smaller place, own less stuff, and travel more. Or spend more money on Pokemon…not sure what his ultimate goal is at this point.

We have a collection of math manipulatives which have been featured over the years. I’m getting rid of all of it. The gems, the stickers, dot sticks, googley eyes, etc.

So my challenge is to determine how many math concepts we can learn using LEGO and only LEGO. I want to figure out what we can get rid of and make sure there isn’t anything to hold on to. My theory is that the LEGO Bricks are all that is needed for a good math manipulative collection. Every Tuesday I’m going to feature a new math concept with LEGO.

Today we are doing Place Value. I feel like place value is best done using manipulatives. It can be easy for kids to think that 396 is just a 3, a 9, and a 6. They fail to see it’s 300, 90, and 6. Place value can easily bring that into focus. I especially like showing that in numbers like 306, that 0 is vital! Without the 0, it’s 36. Not the same!

### LEGO Place Value

So we start with each block that represents ‘1’. We count all the 1’s, up to 9.

Then we make a big deal of adding one more 1 and it’s a 10.

When you get to 10 ones, they get bundled together to make a 10. Then we move the 10 over to the 10’s area. Sometimes we have a little house warming party for our new 10. Like “Yay, you did it, you became a 10!”.

Then we build another 10 and move it over to the 10’s area, showing off that we’re making 11, 12, 13, etc.

I speed through adding a few more 10’s until we are near 100. Then I’ll have 9 tens set out and together we will add 10 more 1’s. When going from 99 to 100 we make a big deal about making a 100 block and moving it over to the 100’s place.

We go back and compare how big a 100 block is to a 10 block to a 1 block. The size difference often makes a big impression on them.

Finally, we roll the dice and change either the ten or the ones (or the hundreds, if we’ve collected that many LEGO Bricks). I do this to illustrate that just because a ten changes doesn’t mean a once does as well, and vice versa.

We don’t always have the blocks in just one color. For two reasons:

- It’s not practical. We have a ton of LEGO blocks and it’s still hard to find 10 of the same color lock, not to mention 100.
- Sometimes it’s nice to illustrate the combining of different sets. 36 is the same at 15+21. I feel like having differently colored blocks gives the idea that the LEGO bricks are not just representing one number but could be representing a combination of numbers.

So that’s the basic of how we introduce place value with LEGO Bricks.