back to article All that Lego has a purpose: Researchers find that spatial memory improves kids' mathematical powers

A couple of Swedish scientists have been able to show that practising maths is not the only way to get better at the subject. For a long time, it has been observed that the ability to remember the shapes of objects and manipulate them in one's imagination is closely linked with a propensity for science, technology, engineering …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    The Swedish school system obviously wants to improve the capabilities of children.

    In England the school system is just there to babysit (whilst their parents work) and to enforce conformity on them for later life.

    Who knows, this research could cause the English government to ban LEGO?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Hells, hells, hells!

      I was about to make a sarky response to your jokey claim, when all of a sudden the image of Priti Patel taking Gavin Williamson aside for an earnest little chat regarding unhealthy Danish cultural influences popped into my head. It won't go away.

  2. Joe W Silver badge

    Lego and origami

    Those were two of my favourite things as a kid. They still are. Maybe they helped, both my brother and I were pretty good in maths and science. OK, a sample size of two is not that significant, I admit :D

    Still, time to get some paper and teach a kid how to fold (the traditional goldfish is great, very forgiving, looks good when glued onto blue paper a well!). Then, there's a ton of simple modular flowers, boxes, boats... (and the steam train, which I still struggle with).

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Lego and origami

      In my case, Meccano, rather than Lego was my starting point, rapidly followed by balsa, glue, model aircraft kits and then building from plans.

      Ever since I began to design my own flying models and (briefly *) flew RC models I've been able to visualise new models in 3D before I designed and built them. That's both complete models and partial assemblies. This ability has vastly helped in designing lots of stuff, not just new model aircraft.

      * I quickly realised that, for me anyway, flying my own free flight designs in competitions was much more fun than driving RC models round the sky. Better exercise too, since you get to chase and retrieve your model after every flight.

      1. Foxglove

        Re: Lego and origami

        Origami For me.

        My greatest accomplishment was making the 'Jackstone' in Robert Harbin's 'Origami 2 - The Art of Paper-Folding' which I've just pulled off my bookshelf to look at.

        Mine is the 1974 Ninth Impression, it's quite fragile now. But so am I.

        According to p125 it was created by Jack Stillman.

        On the last page of the instructions it says 'You deserve a medal'.

        I was so chuffed when I completed it - after many, many failed attempts.

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Lego and origami

          Are there instructions for the medal included as well? :-)

      2. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

        Re: Lego and origami

        I still have my Dad's Meccano set in a box. It includes a small paraffin fired boiler and tiny piston that can drive cogs and chains. If you hold down the safety pressure relief valve you can get your windmill to go into overdrive (don't worry about the speed of the rotating steel windmill blades, they don't go all the way through a pencil).

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Lego and origami

          >I still have my Dad's Meccano set in a box.

          Been busy during lockdown?

          A friend who runs a web store selling reproduction and pre-owned Meccano has been kept busy throughout lockdown.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Lego and origami

      Lego was good, but I preferred mechano, especially builds that used the motor.

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Bronze badge

        Re: Lego and origami

        Would I be right in assuming that you didn't have the Lego motor? Intended to be part of a train set but there was more fun to be had off the rails. The switch lever on the battery box on mine got snapped - Mister_C senior jury-rigged a fix by carving a lolly stick and I learned that things are only broken when you can't find a way to keep them working...

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Lego and origami

          No, I didn't have a lego motor. I didn't know it was a thing until I read your comment.

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Lego and origami

            Actually, looking at when it came out, it probably wasn't a thing at the time I was using the mechano motor.

      2. Totally not a Cylon
        Boffin

        Re: Lego and origami

        The original big lego motor which drove 4 wheels directly had a rather nice gearbox when you took it apart 'to see how it worked'.

        It still worked after as well....

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Lego and Minecraft

    My kid is big into both. I think they go hand in hand!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Lego and Minecraft

      Lego was my favorite childhood activity.

      Minecraft is awesome as well, I introduced my daughter, nieces and nephews to it.

      Despite all that, I suck at math.

      Oh well.

  4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    ummm...

    The article makes no mention of lego (*), or any other 3D activity, such as the Meccano or model building mentioned by commentards.

    (* It's a word now, like google, biro or hoover. No daft trademark symbol or capitalisation requited. You won, LegoCorp. Get over it.)

    1. Martin-R

      Re: ummm...

      Errm, yes, I was trying to work where Lego fitted in too!

  5. Roland6 Silver badge

    So don't inflict your Rubik's cube on your kids

    "The researchers had been expecting rotation training to help in learning mathematics. However, it turned out to have the smallest effect."

  6. Blackjack Silver badge

    So basically.... you get the same result by playing 3D Tetris?

  7. doublelayer Silver badge

    How to use it best

    Now we just have to study which approach is the more useful when building Lego structures. My brother preferred to follow the plans and build exactly what was on the kit. I constructed less sophisticated structures, usually some variation on large box which has to hold various items together, but that meant I had to pay more attention to the strength of my structures which were holding up other things. I wonder which of us was learning more from the experience. My brother's creations held together for years, whereas I would usually scrap mine for parts quickly, so he definitely gets the endurance advantage.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: How to use it best

      >My brother preferred to follow the plans and build exactly what was on the kit.

      ...

      My two teenagers got a Hogwarts Great Hall Lego kit for Christmas, both followed the instructions...

      It wasn't until we stood the two completed kits next to each other that it became clear my daughter had built a mirrored version...

  8. Roger Greenwood

    Airfix

    also deserves a mention (other model kits are available).

  9. thondwe

    Cart + Horse

    Always wonder with these sorts of Psycho tests how the conclusions can be that firm - e.g. are all the activities fun - 2D less fun than 3D - so suppressing the maths talent rather than encouraging it - good teachers = interested and therefore good pupils is a pretty common claim...

    I too fall into the bucket of good at maths/coding etc having lived Lego (with motors), Meccano (With Mammod Stationary Steam Engine "power"!), with a dalliance with Origami (Failed with Jackstone though)

  10. steviebuk Silver badge

    I love

    Lego, still do, an Adult Fan Of Lego.....however, I'm still shit at maths.

  11. TheProf Silver badge
    WTF?

    That explains it

    I recently learned that I have what is termed 'Aphantasia'. I can't conjure up mental images. (Or sounds for that matter.) I'm also rubbish at maths.

    I'm of the 'follow the instructions' persuasion when it comes to Lego. Minecraft for me is a tedious slog. I can't 'see' what I want to build so after fruitlessly dropping blocks on top of each other I end up with, well, a pile on blocks on top of each other.

    On the plus side when someone says 'don't think of elephants' I don't.

  12. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Before getting all excited by this, I would like to know how, exactly, they defined "maths". Just arithmetic?

  13. not.known@this.address Silver badge

    Education for the masses?

    If you can work out how long it will take you to get to a destination, you are doing maths. If you can get from where you started to where you wanted to end up without hitting anything then you are doing maths (someone/something hitting you doesn't necessarily mean *you* failed). Hacks me off no end when someone thinks that, because they can't write down the "correct" sequence of operations to do "real maths" that they cannot *do* maths.

    Schools should spend less time pretending they can teach children everything they need to know and concentrate on giving them the tools to learn for themselves and the curiosity to want to learn.

    Any society that allows itself to fall into the trap that schools can (or should) teach everything you will ever need to know is setting themselves up for trouble - it's how you end up with Cancel Culture and statues of Sir Isaac Newton being torn down and his name erased from the history books because he didn't do enough to fight racism and slavery.

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