Publications & Research

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation

Publication Date

Spring 2018


Curriculum and Instruction | Early Childhood Education | Educational Methods | Elementary Education | Elementary Education and Teaching | Pre-Elementary, Early Childhood, Kindergarten Teacher Education | Science and Mathematics Education


This series of activities invites students to engage in a design challenge that elicits mathematical and scientific thinking. In the first activity, the picture book The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires will be used as a catalyst to discuss the engineering design process as experienced by the protagonist, a little girl. Suggested questioning techniques and inferential reasoning strategies will focus on the trials and tribulations, frustrations, and successes achieved by the little girl. Additionally, discussion prompts are included to provide students an opportunity to reflect on the little girl as a mathematician and scientist as she takes action and makes decisions throughout her design journey. This book is utilized at all grade levels to introduce the subsequent activity.

In the kindergarten activity, students will focus on constructing a vehicle to carry a pet the longest distance down a ramp. Learners will begin by exploring a set of Brickyard Building Blocks materials, determining how they could be utilized in building a vehicle, and then working cooperatively to construct their pet transport. After testing their vehicle and measuring the distance each prototype has traveled, students will analyze the class data while discussing which vehicles traveled the furthest, shortest, and what characteristics of a design may contribute to the vehicle’s performance.

In the first-grade activity, students will use Brickyard Building Blocks in addition to common materials to complete the given design challenge. Students will examine the performance of their vehicle by measuring the distance it travels using non-standard units, and compare their data to that of their peers.

The second-grade activity uses common materials to address an engineering design challenge: make a “magnificent” transportation vehicle for an animal passenger that can travel a minimum distance of 1 foot past the end of a foam ramp when released at the top of the ramp. In addition, students will analyze the “cost” of building their animal transport vehicle and will collect and analyze distance data to determine which design features of the various vehicles built led to the longest travel distances.


Presented at:

NCTM Regional Meeting, Fall 2017

NCTM Annual Meeting, Spring 2018

Brickyard Building Blocks Pieces.pdf (1122 kB)
Resource for Grades K-1

Wheel and Axle Ideas.pdf (2483 kB)
Resource for Grades 1-2

Store Setup.pdf (1183 kB)
Resource for Grade 2



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