Here’s a fun way to use LEGO® bricks – build some math patterns! And by patterns, I don’t mean just your usual preschool patterns. We’re moving beyond red-blue-red-blue here because math can be COOL! This STEM activity can be used with a wide variety of ages, and it will encourage kids to be creative.
Challenge kids to express a mathematical pattern with LEGO bricks. Here are some ideas to get them started!
We’ll start with one of my favorites. Can you guess what it is?
This pattern is also a mathematical function, and you probably guessed that it’s DOUBLING! So amazing to see it in such a visual way. Writing an expression for this function would be a little complicated for kids 8th grade and under, but you can have kids make a T chart to record their pattern. On one side, write row 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. On the other side write 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.
This one is similar – it’s the 3’s multiplication table. 3 x 1, 3 x 2, and so on. It would interesting to build the 3’s and the 6’s and compare them… if you have that many bricks!
This next pattern is interesting to explore. Just make sure that you start and end each color in the same place each time! If you do that, you’ll find that counting from the outside, each color has 4 fewer studs than the color before it. (Or 4 more studs than the color before it, if you start counting in the center instead of the outside.)
I thought the math was interesting on this one, so I asked Aidan’s math teacher (a good friend of ours) with help on writing the function. She said it is a recursive function. Here it is:
The “n” after the “a” should be a subscript.
an = (n-1) x (4) + 3
a = the number of studs
n = the number in the series, i.e. row 1, 2, 3, etc.
Pretty cool, huh?
Build a simple pattern with increasing numbers, and add a new color each time. Make it even bigger if you want!
Here’s a simple pattern… just stack some 2 x 4 bricks but rotate 90 degrees to the left, then back to the right. Then to the left again, then back to the right.
Now if we combine several of these towers, THIS is what we get:
Pretty neat, huh?
The other side of this pattern looks really cool as well:
Here’s another interesting way to stack bricks into a tower.
And here’s something similar, but with two types of bricks (2 x 2 and 2 x 4) and the addition of a color pattern as well.
How to Use These Patterns with a Class
If I were running a LEGO® club or a STEM class, I would build two or three of these patterns as inspiration and challenge kids to create their own patterns. Encourage them to come up with a math expression to go with their pattern. Expressions may be simple, like:
1 x 3
2 x 3
3 x 3
Or they may just describe their pattern in words. “I built a tower with 2 x 4 bricks. Each brick that you add rotates 90 degrees to the right.”
This is a great time to discuss math vocabulary such as perpendicular, parallel, horizontal, vertical, etc.
Have fun building!