This LEGO® activity is a great way to introduce the concept of multiplication to 2nd and 3rd graders in a very hands-on way.  Math doesn’t feel like work when you’re building with LEGO®!  And the best part of this activity is that you are actually introducing your child to grouping, multiplication, division, and the commutative property all at the same time.

I would highly recommend this activity if your child is an especially visual or tactile learner, or if you think your child does not “get” the concept of multiplication after being taught it in a more traditional way.

Hands-on Lego Multiplication

I first saw this idea on The Map is Not the Territory.  Her multiplication chart uses beads, and the boys agreed that LEGO®s would be a better way to go!  I also approached this a little bit differently – if you read the post on The Map is Not the Territory, the chart we made is similar to the second chart she shows with a change on the first row.

To build the multiplication graph, you will need:

  • One large base plate
  • 15 green 1 x 1 bricks
  • 30 orange 1 x 1 bricks
  • 45 yellow 1 x 1 bricks
  • 60 blue 1 x 1 bricks
  • 75 red 1 x 1 bricks

I ordered the blocks from the Pick-a-Brick section on lego.com.  It cost me $29 including shipping, but we have invented several math activities with these bricks (more posts to come!), and it has been totally worth the cost.  If you have a large LEGO® collection, you might be able to just use what you have.  It doesn’t matter what colors you use, but it is best if you have the right numbers of each color specified above.  The multiplication concept is not as clear with random colors.

Step 1:  Label your base plate.  I taped paper to two edges and labeled the rows of dots with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 on each side.  I skipped a dot row between each number.

Hands-on Multiplication with Legos

Step 2:  Tell your child how to build the rows in this graph.  The bottom axis tells how many groups to build, and the side axis tells how many bricks will be in each group.  The groups will be different colors.

The first row is all the same color.  1 group of 1, 1 group of 2, 1 group of 3, etc.

The second row has two colors.  2 groups of 1, 2 groups of 2, 2 groups of 3, etc.

And so on.

Hands-on Multiplication with Legos

Step 3:  Make observations along the way.

Look!  The rows count by 2’s, 3’s, etc.!  The towers on the two row go 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.

We discovered that each tower has a “match” on the other side of the graph.  The colors groupings are not the same, but the height of the towers match.  Upon further investigation, Gresham discovered that 3 groups of 4 matches 4 groups of 3, etc.  What a great discovery – this is the commutative property!  As we went along, I asked Gresham to predict which tower the tower we were currently building would match.

Hands-on Multiplication with Legos The finished graph lends itself to interesting observations if you look at it from different angles.

This is a fun angle…

Hands-on Multiplication with Legos

 And this angle shows a very visual look at counting by 5’s, 4’s, 3’s, 2’s, 1’s.

Hands-on Multiplication with Legos

We left our graph up for a few days and then took it apart.  I’m planning to build it again with Gresham (2nd grade) because the repetition will help cement the concept in his mind.  Math drill and worksheets definitely have their place, but I love activities like this that develop mathematical thinking!

The LEGO® Math Series:

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO® group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this site. 

15 Comments

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  1. sarahelisabeth Jan 2, 2014

    I like this and think that we have enough Duplo to make this multiplication graph! I am pinning this for future reference.

    Reply
    1. Becky @ This Reading Mama Jan 2, 2014

      Love, love, love this idea!!! Pinning and sharing on my FB page. My son will FLIP when I show this to him. I had a couple of hands-on multiplication activities planned for next week with his dart gun, but he's a LEGO lover. So excited to try this one, too! :) Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
      1. Beyond Traditional Math Jan 2, 2014

        This is awesome! I am a huge fan of legos for teaching math. They have endless possibilities. I made up this one for my third graders (totally free for download):

        http://beyondtraditionalmath.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/fit-a-free-multiplication-strategy-game-using-arrays/

        Happy New Year! :)

        Reply
        1. The Preschool Toolbox Jan 3, 2014

          Love this post, Sarah! Awesome way to upcycle all those Legos into concrete math skill building! Kuddos!

          Reply
          1. Malke Jan 3, 2014

            Beautiful! The Legos look a lot easier to work with. Wouldn't it be fun to make it even bigger?! :-)

            Reply
            1. Sheryl Morris Jan 3, 2014

              Yes, bigger!! Can't you just see one big enough to fill a city block? Come on!

              I'm wondering about using "Montessori colors." Would that yield yet more depth of meaning for us Montessorians? Yes? No? Maybe?

              Reply
              1. Sarah Jan 5, 2014

                Yes! I would love to make it bigger! Too bad cost is an issue when using Legos, but if we forget about the color scheme we could make it bigger. Thanks for the comment - I have really enjoyed following your blog!

                Reply
              2. Terri Jan 3, 2014

                I love this so much!! I've shared it just about anywhere I can and saving the idea for when my girls start learning multiplication.

                Reply
                1. Discovering Montessori Jan 4, 2014

                  Genius! Thank you so much for sharing. I love The Map is Not the Territory blog too.

                  Reply
                  1. Heidi @ Happiness is Homemade Jan 4, 2014

                    This is a great idea! My second grader is struggling with visualizing the concept of multiplication, and I think this will be perfect for him!

                    Reply
                    1. Christina Jan 7, 2014

                      Awesome! Perfect for my boys!

                      Reply
                      1. Maria Droujkova Feb 9, 2014

                        I featured your multiplication tower in the history of this activity: http://www.moebiusnoodles.com/2014/02/multiplicationtowers/

                        Thank you for sharing!

                        Reply
                        1. Melissa Feb 25, 2014

                          Just discovered your page yesterday! I'm homeschooling my 6 year old son. Great ideas here!!! The Lego activities will be a huge hit. We just introduced multiplication this morning. Hoping to create this graph by the end of the week. God Bless!

                          Reply
                          1. Lucinda @ Navigating By Joy Mar 9, 2014

                            Hi - I loved your tower too. I'd been planning to make a bead tower for a while, and then I saw yours. My daughter made one from beads, my son from Lego. Lots of fun and learning - thanks for the inspiration! I linked to you in my post. Thanks for your clear explanations, too. We agreed with your way of doing the "ones".
                            http://www.navigatingbyjoy.com/2014/03/02/make-multiplication-tower/

                            Reply
                            1. Sarah Mar 9, 2014

                              How fun! I'm glad they enjoyed it!

                              Reply
                            2. Janis Cox Mar 20, 2016

                              Very interesting. Very visual. I will be linking your post to extension activities for my new children's book. Following you from Proverbs 31 Wife
                              Thanks,
                              Blessings,
                              Janis

                              Reply
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                                Reply
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