Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thursday Tool School: Critical Thinking with Pattern Blocks

The final pattern block activity I want to share with you is called "Pattern Block Line-Ups." In this activity, students try to place pattern blocks in the correct position using a set of clues to find the correct placements. This activity is a great way to integrate vocabulary and build critical thinking skills at the same time. 

Here's how it works: 

1. Determine how many shapes to use. Note: Using a smaller amount of shapes may better support the learning of young mathematicians or students who need a more accessible problem to begin. In addition, deciding to give students the entire 6-piece set to choose from is a way to make the task more challenging because students will need to select which shapes to place in the line-up. 

2. Write the clues. Due to the versatility of pattern blocks, there are lots of options for the clues. Besides using sides and angles, think about using color, length of the shape names, or size. Note: You may want to provide students with a work mat. You can find a blank work mat for 3- and 4-box problems here

3. Double-check the solution. Sometimes, there may be more than one correct solution based on the way the clues are written. This is a great opportunity to think about ways to encourage your students to check their strategies. Note: I personally like to place the shapes where I think that they go and then re-read the clues to be sure each shape is in the correct place.

4. Use the strategy with the class. You may want to demonstrate this activity by having the students act it out with large shape cut-outs. This provides a terrific opportunity to use a think-aloud strategy while modeling. After students are comfortable with the activity, move to using the work mats. 

Examples of Pattern Block Line-Ups   

Note: The term 'corners' was used intentionally to make the task more accessible to a younger group of learners.

Note: After your students have had the chance to get comfortable with this activity, get creative! Use money, counting bears, number tiles, etc. to mix things up.

Free Resource Alert: Get a copy of a blank 3- and 4-box work mat here

Share your thoughts, opinions, and experiences of this activity in the comments section below. 


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