Pattern blocks fit together to make intriguing and beautiful patterns, and they help children learn math in a multitude of ways. Here are classroom activities of all levels, plus homework assignments that extend learning and bring parents into the loop. The last problem may even challenge you!
Scoop and Sort (K–2)
Step 1: Have children take a two-handed scoop of pattern blocks, sort them by shape, and place matching shapes in separate columns on 18-by-24-inch newsprint. It helps to draw a grid.
Step 2: Ask students to trace and color the blocks, or paste construction paper shapes onto the grid. Post one of the children's graphs and have children talk about what they notice. Over several days, repeat for all of the children's graphs.
Homework: In class, have students write three sentences about their graph. Send home their graphs and ask parents to help them write three additional sentences.
Build the Yellow Hexagon (Grades 3–5)
Step 1: Have students work in groups to find all the different ways to re-create the yellow hexagon using different assortments of blocks.
Step 2: After they think they've found all the ways, have children record them using fractions, with the yellow hexagon assigned the value of 1. For example, if they build the hexagon with one red trapezoid and three green triangles, they'll write: 1/2 + 1/6 + 1/6 + 1/6 = 1. Show students how to shorten that to 1/2 + 3/6 = 1.
Homework: Send home the student work with a sampler of pattern blocks.
Building Larger Shapes (Grades 4–6)
Step 1: Ask students to investigate which of the pattern blocks they can use to build shapes that are larger but similar, such as four or nine squares to make a larger square. To get children started, ask: Can you use green triangles to build a larger green triangle that is still the same shape? How many do you need?
Step 2: Send the problem home with a sampler of pattern blocks.
A Challenge (Grades 6 and up)
You can easily compare the areas of some shapes of pattern blocks. The red trapezoid, for example, is half the area of the yellow hexagon and three times as large as the green triangle. How do the areas of the orange square and tan parallelogram compare?
Try this yourself! If you get stuck, check out The Solution to Marilyn Burns' Pattern Block Puzzler.