What is the Minicomputer?

The minicomputer is a research-based math "thinking tool" originally developed by the noted Belgian mathematician and educator, Georges Papy.  He found that children who use this tool are able to perform mental calculations far beyond what is typical for their age group.
 

What the Minicomputer teaches

The minicomputer is a versatile tool can be used to teach place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and a variety of other mathematical concepts.   It's a potent "mental workout" that helps build a child's math fluency.  It's also very fun to play with!
 

How the Minicomputer works

The minicomputer is divided into four quadrants or squares.  Each square on the minicomputer represents a particular number.  The lower right square is 1, the lower left 2, upper right 4, and upper left 8.

minicomp_value_1s_256px.jpg
 

Numbers are represented by placing markers (or, in our game, gems) on different squares.

...and this represents 8:

For example, this represents 4:

minicomp_4_256px.jpg
minicomp_8_256px.jpg
 

Using multiple gems

Other numbers can be represented by placing multiple gems on the minicomputer board.  For example:

...this represents 3 (1 + 2):

minicomp_3_256px.jpg

...this represents 5 (1 + 4):

minicomp_5_256px.jpg

...and this represents 7 (1 + 2 + 4):

minicomp_7_256px.jpg
 
 

Using the Minicomputer for Computation

Students also can add, subtract, multiply, and divide with the minicomputer using different color gems.  Students first place the gems to represent different parts of the expression, and then simplify by gluing gems.  For example:

This placement represents 3 + 1:

mc_3+1_0_256px.jpg

The two 1's can be combined to make another 2:

mc_3+1_1_256px.jpg

...the new 2 and the old 2 make a 4:

mc_3+1_2_256px.jpg

...so 3 + 1 = 4:

 
mc_3+1_eq_256px.jpg
 

Using the Minicomputer to understand place value

 The minicomputer is also a wonderful tool for teaching place value. A student is introduced to the fundamental idea of a positional system very early and with small numbers.  The minicomputer provides a simple way to visualize this concept by using multiple boards to represent the one's place, ten's place, hundred's place, etc.

The minicomputer is a wonderful way to teach place value. A student is introduced to the fundamental idea of a positional system very early and with small numbers.  The minicomputer provides a simple way to visualize this concept by using multiple boards to represent the one's place, ten's place, hundred's place, etc.

minicomp_value_10s_256px.jpg
minicomp_value_1s_256px.jpg
 

This visual representation of numbers help children learn that different parts of a number can be calculated independently.  For example, here's how to represent the equation 60 + 12 = 70 (note that the calculation can be performed exclusively on the 10's board):

mc_60+12_10s_256px.jpg
mc_60+12_1s_256px.jpg
 
 

A fun, versatile "tool to think with"

The minicomputer is a powerful learning tool and transforms math into a series of fun, game-like mental exercises.  We hope you and your students enjoy these puzzles.  Stay tuned for more MathBRIX games and tools, coming in the near future!