Thinking Blocks

Common Sense Media says

Alternative approach to math has good design but little fun.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kids get positive feedback as they collect stars for correctly solving difficult problems.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

The "About" page includes links to sites that have math products and curricula for sale.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Thinking Blocks is a clever and faithful representation of the Singapore Math method, which uses blocks as visual tools to model word problems. With an exclusively instructive approach, this learning site offers plenty of practice and guidance for solving sometimes complicated math problems.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • equations
  • fractions
  • multiplication
  • ratio
  • subtraction
  • addition
  • arithmetic
  • division

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • applying information
  • defining problems
  • part-whole relationships

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Simple, straightforward setup means information and usage is clear, but there's not a whole lot to excite kids. Kids who like math will have fun playing with new ways to represent math concepts; kids who don't might need encouragement.

Learning Approach

Kids get good hints when they make mistakes, which guides them in building their math models. However, the purely didactic approach makes it feel like work, and the site is only as successful as the Singapore Math method it represents. 

Support

Each activity has an accompanying demo video. A simple tracking tool tracks progress but only in a single session. The only resources for extending learning are links to other Singapore Math method sites.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • equations
  • fractions
  • multiplication
  • ratio
  • subtraction
  • addition
  • arithmetic
  • division

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • applying information
  • defining problems
  • part-whole relationships

Kids can learn a whole new way to think about math concepts such as addition, fractions, ratios, and multiplication. They will learn how to write equations and solve a wide variety of word problems by modeling them with blocks. This new representation can help some kids understand math at a deeper level and appreciate a newfound understanding of otherwise complicated math concepts. Adding some element of fun might make visiting the site more desirable and could help kids learn even more.

This Learning Rating review was written by Mieke VanderBorght

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What's it about?

Kids choose from four math topics -- addition, multiplication, fractions, and ratios -- and then a subtopic, such as adding two quantities. After reading a short word problem, kids get guidance to construct a model with blocks, label the blocks, assign numbers to each block, and finally solve the problem. Kids can see videos demonstrating each subtopic and can choose to track their progress and print a certificate of completion. The modeling tool allows kids to use preloaded word problems or write their own and then design their own block model from start to finish.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THINKING BLOCKS uses a unique approach to representing sometimes complicated math concepts. The exercises force kids to think about each problem in a systematic step-by-step way, and videos and well-positioned hints help kids at each step (except when it's time to finally solve the problem, at which point the limited guidance is good but available only after kids enter an incorrect answer).

The site is clearly educational, but that's also its downfall. The alternative way to represent math might help some kids understand math better, especially if they're strong visual learners. Coming to understand something that was previously difficult can be rewarding in and of itself; however, interacting with the site feels like more work than fun, which might turn kids off.

Families can talk about...

  • Discuss how using the blocks to represent math problems can change the way your kids think about math.

  • Help your kids create their own word problems to solve.

Website details

Genre:Educational
Pricing structure:Free

This review of Thinking Blocks was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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