* Prices may differ from that shown
I always hated maths. I was quite good in maths as a child, but I still hated it. This is the one subject I've really struggled to find fun ways of teaching, and quite often I do resort to work books, rote memorisation ( with a few twists thrown on like jumping on a trampoline while reciting facts) and computer games. But I do like to break things up with as many fun activities as possible. Maths manipulates certainly make maths more fun, but they also teach children in a different way than just learning from books. When a child can touch and feel something it becomes more real and these little blocks offer a lot of scope for learning several different skills.
Learning Resources makes 3 different sets of pattern blocks. I have the cheapest set which is currently selling for £13.11 on Amazon. this set is only 1/4 centimetre thick and the largest piece, the hexagon is 4 centimetres across. The triangle is only 2 centimetres on each side. This company also makes a beautiful set of wooden blocks, which appear exactly the same except of course they are made from wood and 1 cm thick. These sell for £26.47 and would have been first choice if I was able to afford them. Finally you can buy a thicker set of plastic blocks, also 1 cm thick for £21.97, but if I were going to spend that much, I'd splash out the extra fiver for wood.
Whichever set you choose, you will receive 250 pieces. This sounds like quite a bit, but it is really only enough for one or at the very most two children to use at a time. It ends up taking a lot of blocks to make a good pattern. They are coloured as follows: hexagon - yellow; trapezoid / trapezium - red; square - orange; triangle - green; parallelogram - blue; rhombus - tan. These colours appear to be standard throughout the industry as the exact same colours are used in my patterns block book, which was purchased separately and not connected with this product, and our Melissa and Doug magnetic pattern block set - which are also the exact same measurements except for thickness. I would note that the instructions book refers to the red part as a trapezoid, but in Britain this should be called a trapezium. I find the whole thing quite confusing, but in short in Britain a trapezium is a four sided shape with at least two parallel sides. A trapezoid is a four sided shape with no parallel sides. In the USA it is reversed. So if you teach your children the shape names according to the instruction sheet they will be quite confused when they learn geometry at school unless you are sending them to school in America.
You also get a handy plastic bucket to keep everything in, and a small instruction sheet. There a re a number of activity suggestions printed here, teaching shapes,creating patterns, congruent shapes, symmetry, fractions and exploring area. The print is small, and where it comes to shape names it is positively microscopic, but the instructions are easy to understand and give you enough activities to really enjoy this set without any additional materials, but I will still recommend an absolutely brilliant book "Developing Mathematics with Pattern Blocks" by Dr Paul Swan, which will be the subject of my next review.
What Can I do with these?
This is one of those toys where the possibilities are endless. Using the instructions, you can teach the various shapes and names, allowing the child to feel as well as see the shape. You can show a child how many different shapes can fit into another shape. You can explore patterns and create beautiful mosaic designs. You can teach fractions, showing that each trapezium is 1/2 of a hexagon, each diamond will cover 1/3 of the hexagon and each triangle will cover 1/6. You can add and subtract fractions easily and find equivalents. You can teach area by having a child cover a paper with blocks, discussing why it takes more blue blocks than yellow to cover the paper. You can teach symmetry by creating designs that are the same on both sides.
Of course I'm not one to just follow the instructions for everything. my sons enjoy just creating their own designs, which we can discuss the features of later - for instance noting how the design displays symmetry, or patterns. You can make a number of different pictures, either using your imagination, a book or looking up pattern block designs online. If you do make pictures, you can place your design on a sheet of paper and carefully trace around the shapes ( you do have to move them out of place for this) and then paint or colour your picture. You can have great fun by placing a barrier between yourself and the child so you can not see each other's blocks. Then take turns creating a picture which the other player must duplicate by following your instructions. You can measure things with them. Most fun of all, you can just play. Create multicoloured roads for hot wheels cars, or mosaic floors for a dragons castle. This is a lovely creative toy - you can make them into anything you like.
We've had a lot of fun with these and both boys really enjoy them. I do like games like this myself. This is something we can play with time and time again as there are so many different ways to play with these. the very best part though, is these will help the children develop a concrete knowledge of maths and geometry and have fun at the same time. Hopefully with enough enjoyable activities linked to maths, they will both learn more and develop a more positive attitude to the subject.
These are usually thought of as a teaching tool, and this is obvious by the language in the instructions, referring to students rather than children. I can certainly see the value of these in the classroom, but you would need a large number of sets. This is of course brilliant for home education where the parent can really work with the children one on one. I've no problem recommending these as a teaching aid, but I would recommend them as toy first and foremost. These are a wonderful item just for creative play and exploration. In addition to playing with these with my sons, I also like to let them play with them on their own, without direction and just see what they can make.
The only drawback to these blocks is that being so thin, you can only make designs horizontally. If you buy the thicker blocks, you can build upwards as well.
Use these sets of 250 blocks in six shapes and six colors to explore patterns symmetry linear and area measurement fractions and problem solving. The 1 cm blocks are thick enough to stand up for 3-dimensional patterning. Teaching Guide included. Ages 5 to 13