Teaching with Blocks


Using Addition Blocks and Multiplication Blocks to Teach Facts

I have always preached and told anyone interested that Addition Blocks and Multiplication Blocks are used to build fluency. While that is the primary purpose, these games can also be used to actually teach facts as well– As long as there is an understanding of what the apps are actually doing…And a willingness to work with you child one-on-one. Additionally, Addition Blocks/Multiplication Blocks should not and can not be the sole instrument to teach your child to add or multiply. The games can be/should be one tool in your toolbox.

(If you are not familiar with the game play, please watch the videos here and here).

The goal for fluency is ‘knowing’ over ‘constructing’. That is, we want the kids to have  instant recall (subconscious) with their addition and multiplication facts, rather than counting on their fingers or skip counting. With repetition and feedback, children will move (that is, the neural connections will be strengthened) facts into long-term memory. So, we can use the apps to help move those facts into long-term memory through simply giving them the answers as they play.

Using the game to teach facts requires one-on-one instruction time. Play the game on ‘easy’ difficulty and ‘slow’ speed, sit with your child or student, and let them tap the blocks while you tell them the answers on the board: “Seven is four plus three…Six is three plus three… 5 is four plus one.” Just through the repetition, the kids (especially the really young ones, whose brains are sponges) will begin to memorize their facts. Not only that, younger children will also be building their number sense.

Finally, have realistic expectations. Don’t expect your child to know their facts after one week. Building fluency takes time. Keep in mind how long their attention span. Playing the game in short sessions, 3-5 minutes at a time, one-to-two times a week, will be enough. Keep the time with your child fun. Kids love playing the game!

Again, I stress the fact that children need to learn how and why ‘addition’ or ‘multiplication’ works. That requires time and teaching the underlying concepts. But for merely the memorization of facts, playing the games will be a lot more fun than using lots of worksheets!

How do you use the games in your classroom or at home? Leave a comment and share with others!

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