If you’ve ever purchased an unassembled piece of furniture, then you know how daunting those diagrams and instructions can be. Trying to make your finished product look like the one in the picture can seem an impossible task. But take away the printed instructions and try to build it based only on the picture and you get an idea of what kids do with Legos all the time.
But if a kid has difficulty building Lego models, does it foreshadow a future academic struggle? Or is it just an indication that he or she is not destined to be an engineer? Researchers at The Derby University in the UK suspect the former and have carried out a preliminary study to test the theory.
The researchers gave children ages 7 and 8 and 10 and 11 pictures of completed Lego models of a chair, a table and other common items and asked them reproduce them using Lego building blocks. As they worked, the kids were observed and timed. In the end, all the kids were able to build the models, but some took much longer than others to do so.
Lead researcher Dr Miles Richardson says that construction ability can be linked to math and science achievement. And because even very young kids build things as a form of play, observing their skills may present an opportunity to identify at an early age those who might later struggle academically.
“Given the breadth of construction from infants’ play using things like Lego bricks, to adults building self-assembly products, the lack of understanding of its development is surprising.”
Interestingly, while the researchers found that the older kids were usually quicker with the Lego-building tasks, they all struggled with the same things adults do when putting together assemble-it-yourself furniture: too many parts that all look alike.
Assembling things can be difficult and requires a lot of concentration and focus, something not everyone is willing to devote to a construction project. And just as I know plenty of smart people who can’t spell worth a darn, I also know quite a few who wouldn’t dream of spending an afternoon trying to put together an IKEA bookcase. They probably could do it, they just have no interest in trying.
Does Lego-building skills really have any connection to academic performance? Or is it just a matter of not being good at something you don’t enjoy?
Image: 713 Avenue/Flickr
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