Monday, April 19, 2010
Exploring Area with Pattern Blocks
Last week I mentioned how we used pattern blocks to explore area during our geometry class. Today, my student continued the lesson as he explored area using pattern blocks with puzzles.
I own several different pattern block books: Pattern Block Problems for Primary People, Patternables and Magnetic Pattern Blocks. I used the first two as it was easy to find puzzles that did not use the tan parallelogram and orange square (not used in this lesson.) I took all the pages out of both books, slipped each page into a plastic sleeve, and put them all into a 3-ring binder. This allows multiple children to use materials at once; I just pull out a page or two at a time. Today, little student, age 4, put pattern blocks onto some of the easiest puzzles while big student, age 7, calculated area. [Side note: the magnetic books are great for younger kids who may have trouble keeping the blocks in place as they work on a puzzle.]
I again explained that "just for today" a green triangle has an area of 1. With that in mind, I asked him to figure the area for 6 puzzles. He first had to solve the puzzle itself, trying different pattern blocks until he found the ones that fit correctly. After the puzzle was finished, he figured the area for each figure if a triangle = 1. I put a small post-it note next to each puzzle where he could write the answer. When he finished, he explained to me how he got his answer. He calculated so quickly that I sometimes had to ask him repeat himself because "Mommy can't add that fast!" I videotaped one example...it's the first time he's sharing this puzzle with me. See if you can keep up! ;) I wouldn't expect students new to pattern blocks to be able to add so fast, but he's obviously familiar with the shapes and how many triangles fit in each. (You'll want to investigate how many triangles fit in each pattern block shape with your own student before figuring larger puzzles.)
If you keep the puzzles in plastic sleeves, you could ask your student to trace each shape using a dry erase marker, then write the value inside each outline. [For example, a trapezoid would have a "3" written inside it, a triangle a "1", etc.]
Before bedtime, we'll read Spaghetti and Meatballs for All!, a book that considers area and perimeter as tables and chairs are readied for a family reunion.
P.S. Pattern blocks are widely available for purchase. Amazon and The Math Learning Center are two options. Disclaimer: I make a few cents on purchases if you click from here to Amazon. I do not make money on pattern blocks through The Math Learning Center, but they are an awesome non-profit and worth supporting. :)