We all make hundreds of decisions every day - and so many of those decisions involve using and understanding numbers. Poor numeracy skills place children at an enormous disadvantage as they navigate their way through school and into their careers. There is a risk that they cannot use basic mathematical functions in everyday personal, work and study situations.
We simply cannot allow this to happen!
There is a way to change this - and it involves using Six Bricks. Six Bricks is a set of activities and resources for teachers and parents based off the use of just 6 larger size bricks. It's fun and learning at the same time.
As children develop, they start to use maths concepts to make sense of their world and to connect these concepts with their environment and everyday activities. They also start to use tools to develop a positive attitude towards solving problems using maths.
And this is exactly where Six Bricks steps into the picture.
How can Six Bricks improve Numeracy Skills?
The Six Bricks method helps children start early in life to develop spatial sense, structure and pattern, use of number and problem-solving. Here's why it works so well:
- The activities form part of the way in which children can become active learners and develop their thinking processes. This will help them navigate their way through everyday life.
- The Six Bricks activities also help marry words and numbers so that children are able to use their basic numeracy skills and math concepts in out-of-school situations.
- Because the Six Bricks activities are fun, children build their confidence in using numbers.
- Six Bricks does not 'teach' numeracy. Instead, the activities reinforce some of the key concepts so that children experience the joy of using numbers without even realising it.
- Six Bricks is not a curriculum in itself. Instead, the flexible set of activities can be scaled up or down to meet the needs of specific children and their families.
Examples of Six Bricks activities to strengthen children's numeracy
Children engage with these educational activities and games using numbers so that they begin to form the foundation for problem-solving and the ability to make critical judgements. These are easy-to-use activities to boost fundamental skills as the starting point of developing strong numeracy skills all the way through their school career.
1. Use the bricks to identify shapes and colours
This is a straightforward way to get started. Children start to identify different shapes and colours simply by touching and engaging physically with the bricks.
- Ask them to find bricks in specific colours and group them together.
- Ask them to build towers in specific colours. Or even build towers in colours that you call out.
- They can count the number of bricks in the towers and add or subtract bricks.
- Ask them to identify the shapes of the bricks - are there any circles or anything round? What shape are the other bricks?
- Can they count the number of studs on the top of the bricks? How many studs are there? What happens if you add 2 bricks together - what is the total number of studs?
- If you have the Yay4Play mats, you can also do call-outs based on numbers and shapes and moving the bricks around the mats: you can pay to download them here - Educator – Yay4Play
2. You don't need a maths book - use your bricks!
Six Bricks are the manipulatives that you need to bring numerical concepts to life. Repeating exercises or tasks in a book to learn mathematical concepts by rote does not come anywhere near what holding and feeling the bricks can achieve.
There's less writing and whole lot more engagement - and thinking! The Six Bricks way supports conceptual understanding by making it all tangible and practical.
- Think of every exercise that is in an arithmetic book. It could be multiplication or subtraction. Imagine how this same paper and pen exercise could be formed into something a child could do with 6 bricks. The tasks will become a whole lot more fun and there will be learning, skills building and progression too!
- To get started, you can do really simple activities to help children recognise numbers. if you include dice, children could roll the dice and then build the number of bricks that the dice lands on. They could also build these into a tower. If for example, the child rolls the number 4, they take 4 bricks and add them to the tower.
- You can even create games in groups with the dice and the bricks so that children problem solve together and there is an element of competition to make it more engaging and interesting. Who will have the highest tower? Who will use up all the bricks to build the tower in the fastest time thereby improving speed in number recognition.
- You can work it in reverse and practice subtraction as well until the towers are really low or no longer exist. You have helped children to recognise the number on the face of the dice and translate those numbers into the brick stack that grows in size. You could even do a comparison between groups and measure who has built the tallest tower - that adds a dimension around measurement and comparisons.
3. Build Patterns with the Bricks
Patterning is an essential part of learning how to develop skills for ongoing maths development. Children can create their own patterns or they can copy patterns that you have built in advance.
This type of repeated arrangement of the bricks into patterns help to build the concept of sequencing which is also an important foundation for coding and computational skills.
It's also a way of giving a child information in one format and then asking them to transform that information into another format: it could be from a written representation of the pattern into physical set of 3D bricks.
- Use the bricks as a way of setting up a pattern. Children them copy what you have started and continue to form more patterns in the same way.
- You can draw a pattern and children then build out the pattern by using the appropriate colour and size bricks. This also helps them to develop observational skills as they translate from the 2-dimensional flat drawing into the 3-dimensional models made from bricks.
- You can also set up patterns to practise odd and even numbers. Group the bricks into clusters of 2 bricks and then 4 bricks and 6 bricks and so on to help children work in a practical way with setting out the patterns.
To Note: All of these activities are suitable as educational games for autistic children.
4. Other quick, fun activities to improve numeracy skills
If we want to improve children's learning experience with maths, here are some easy ways to start or end a lesson or do with your child at home:
- Ask your child to guess how many bricks there are in the box. They look at the box and take a guess as to how many they think are there. Then count them up! Do we come close to the actual amount. An easy and engaging way to introduce estimation. You need those skills in life to know approximately how many kilometers there are from home to work.
- Form shapes with the bricks - it's such an easy way to demonstrate what a square is or a rectangle. And building those shapes out of bricks embeds those skills and helps with the development of spatial relationships.
- Children can use the bricks as 'money'. Their glass of juice 'costs' $5. They need to bring you 5 bricks to pay for it. Other shapes of bricks might represent .50c and the combination of the larger and smaller bricks make for an interesting way of learning how to deal with money and change.
- You can also use the bricks for more advanced activities such as the formation and interpretation of graphs. Seeing the graph represented visually in the shape of the bricks will help children to grow their ability to interpret data.
Remember - engaged children learn more!
In the USA, over 52% of children start kindergarten unprepared. I don't think it would be much different in Australia.
If you start from behind, it's hard to catch up. By investing early in the education of your child to prepare them for school, you are setting them up to do well in all aspects of their future lives.
One of the keys to achieving this is for children to be engaged while they learn. You cannot learn if you are not paying attention!
That's why all activities that are fun and playful and at the same time teach new skills are the key to ongoing development. It underscores the importance of learning things while doing something that you are doing because you enjoy it.
Make sure that your child has the right start in their education to participate fully in the future.
As Muhammed Ali said: "Impossible is just an opinion."
We have to find a way to ensure that children all have the future they deserve.
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