In September 2015, my Thursday Tool School series titled, “Critical Thinking with Pattern Blocks” introduced using pattern blocks as a critical thinking tool. (Read the original post here.) Today, I would like to rewind to that series and take another look at how pattern block activities can be used to increase your students’ critical thinking skills.
Here’s a short summary of the purpose of pattern blocks. A set of pattern blocks contains six basic shapes: a yellow hexagon, a red trapezoid, a blue rhombus, a green triangle, an orange square, and a beige rhombus. The pieces are proportional to each other which extends the number of ways in which they can be used.
My favorite activity from my “Critical Thinking with Pattern Blocks” series is “What’s the Common Attribute?” This activity can be used year-round and makes a great starter activity, especially during that your geometry unit. The only prerequisite skills needed are some basic vocabulary terms related to shapes, i.e. sides, angles, congruent, equal, etc. I created a freebie pack of tasks to accompany this activity. You can find a copy of the freebie pack with the original post!
The next activity was inspired by an article in the August 2015 edition of Teaching Children Mathematics. It involves having students determine the cost of each element of a pattern block design given the total cost. This task provides the foundation for essential algebraic thinking skills and offers a high-level problem solving task with multiple solutions. You can find a copy of the activity page with the original post.
Pattern blocks. Fractions. No way! Yes, way! My favorite way to use pattern blocks in the classroom is to teach fractions. The red trapezoid, blue rhombus, and green triangle all fit proportionally inside of the yellow hexagon, which makes them great tools to use to model fractions. The last activity is called, “What’s the Whole?” and supports students’ understanding of the ‘whole’ when compared to the ‘part’. Specifically, this activity requires students to view a whole as more than the area inside of a single space, such as the hexagon; it helps them understand a whole to be a unit, as defined by the size of each part. You can grab a free copy of this activity sheet with the original post!