Thursday, January 14, 2016

Estimating and Probability with LEGOs

It's been a while since I got together with a great group of kid bloggers to bring you learning activities for early elementary grades. We started with second grade, and the mission now expanded to include all grades from K to 3. The theme of this week is LEGO - pretty much the BEST tool for learning out there.

Estimating with Lego

Estimating is a topic that is repeated in math every year. It's an important math skill to be able to arrive to approximate number without counting or calculating. We actually use it every day comparing unit prices in the store, figuring out how many cookies can be cut from the piece of the cookie dough or how much fabric we need to buy for that pillow we wanted to make.

Estimating Number of LEGO bricks

This estimating activity with LEGO can be done with kids as young as kindergarten. I simply put 50 Lego bricks  of different colors into a glass jar and asked Smarty to estimate the number of pieces. Interestingly, her initial estimate was spot on, and then she second guessed herself and lowered it to 30. She was a little bummed when she found out that she was right the first time.

Estimating Size

Estimating size is an advanced skill requiring understanding of units of measurement and some multiplication. I asked Smarty to estimate how long will the tower of 50 LEGO blocks will be. She was pretty close on this estimating the height of one brick to be 1 cm. In fact, we looked it up later that the standard LEGO brick is 9.6 mm in height not including knobs. So she estimated the tower to be 50 cm and was able to apply her advanced division skills (Smarty is in the fourth grade now and working ahead, so she is pretty good with division and understanding decimals) inches - her prediction was 18.5 inches. I was quite surprised how close she was - I was predicting over 19 inches :)

Probability with LEGO

Probability is another topic that starts in the first grade and gets somewhat more complex as students progress through the grades. If your student is new to probability, you might want to start with blocks of two colors or with three colors but with the same number of LEGO bricks per color. Smarty had a short data measurement and statistics unit in the second grade when they did data analysis with a spinner and a dice. She counted her LEGO bricks and came up with 20 red bricks, 20 white bricks, and 10 green bricks. We put the bricks into a paper bag, and I asked her to predict the probability of pulling a green brick. She correctly predicted it to be 1 out of 5 (or 20%) and said that she will need to pull 6 bricks to "guarantee" a green bricks. Alas, probability is not certainty. As luck would have it, she only got a green brick on 11th try, which, I hope, reinforced some probability concepts that were a bit abstract in her mind.

Have you done any learning activities with LEGO?

More LEGO Learning

Check out these terrific LEGO ideas from other kid bloggers:
Hands-On Synonym Blocks Matching Game from Raising Little Superhereos
Spelling With LEGOS! from Preschool Powol Packets
LEGO Boat Engineering Challenge from Handmade Kids Art
Using LEGO to find Syllables from Rainy Day Mum
Area and Perimeter with Lego Duplos from School Time Snippets
Plural Nouns with LEGO from Still Playing School
Combinations of Ten Using Lego Figures from Lemon Lime Adventures
Estimating and Probability with LEGO from Planet Smarty Pants
Lego Bar Graphs for First Grade from Look We're Learning
Exploring Symmetry with a Lego Firefly from Crafty Kids at Home
Pick Two: A Fun LEGO Math Game from Creative Family Fun

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I am seeing so many fun LEGO activities lately! This is a great one.

Selena Robinson said...

LEGOS in a jar - such a great estimation activity!

Ticia said...

I've always found probability to be interesting, especially in things like we have 5 colors and you're blindly pulling.

Christy McGuire said...

Oh! My children will love this.