How I Use It
I use Teaching Blocks with my second graders at different points during the year as we work on word problems. Students can select from a few types of word problems (part/part/whole, 2 step, addition or subtraction, etc) and a range of numbers, either 1-50 or 1-300. We use easier settings in the fall and gradually ramp up the difficulty as the year progresses. I find this app is a great visual for students, especially those who have difficulty visualizing word problems. I project 1-3 problems each day and we talk through the solution together. The app is helpful because it forces students to take problems 1 step at a time--label the blocks, put in the numbers, add the bars, adjust the bars, solve. At each point students need to check in to see if they've completed the step correctly and the app provides feedback. After we've completed a few problems at a given level whole class, I have pairs of students work together to complete a few more problems. Students who are still struggling complete additional problems in a small group with me. I ask those who understand the math to create a word problem of their own. They swap word problems with a partner and use a model to solve, then check their work with the word problem's creator.
Thinking Blocks is not a bells and whistles app but I value the step by step approach and visuals it provides for students as they complete different types of word problems. For many of my students who struggle with word problems it's because they don't know where to start. This app forces them to solve a problem 1 step at a time. It forces them to label a block picture then add bars and finally the corresponding numbers. Only after each of these steps has been completed correctly can students give their answer. I also like the feedback that appears after each step. It supports the math I am already doing with my students. I would like to see a further breakdown of numbers--1-20, 1-50, 1-100, 1-500.