Thinking Blocks

Website review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Thinking Blocks Website Poster Image
Alternative approach to math has good design but little fun.

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Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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

Violence & scariness
Sexy stuff
Language
Consumerism

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

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What 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.

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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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

  • Subjects: Math: addition, arithmetic, division, equations, fractions, multiplication, ratio, subtraction
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, defining problems, part-whole relationships
  • Genre: Educational
  • Pricing structure: Free

For kids who love math

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