Thursday, May 19, 2016

Transformation Tuesday: Critical Thinking Tools- Pattern Blocks

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. 

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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!

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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. 

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The next activity is similar to the common attribute task above. For "Odd One Out," you display four of the pattern blocks. Students study each figure and determine which shape is the "Odd One Out." The caveat-- there isn't necessarily one right answer. In fact, the name of this game is critical thinking. The goal is for students to scrutinize each shape and use discrimination to isolate one shape 
from the group.

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The next activity emphasizes logical reasoning to determine in what order to place a collection of shapes. For "Pattern Block Line-Ups," 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! You can find a free set of frames with the original post!

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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!

Freebie Alert! Be sure to check out the series link here for freebies and printables to accompany this series! 

Sound Off! How do you use pattern blocks in the classroom? 


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