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Developing Mathematics with Pattern Blocks - Paul Swan

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Paperback: 96 pages / Publisher: Didax Educational Resources / Published: 1 Jan 2006

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      20.04.2013 00:05
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      I can't decide whether this is more educational or entertaining - it exceeds at both.

      Because we home educate, we use a number of maths books at home. I rarely review them, because most are only relevant to other home educators. I've made an exception with this one, because I feel this would be worth buying, not only for teachers, as it is intended, or home educators, but for any family that have a set of pattern blocks. There are some aspects of the book that are geared to more serious education, such as writing fraction sentences using pattern blocks, or calculating perimeter and area, but the vats majority of the activities could be done simply for fun. There are all sorts of brilliant games to play with fraction blocks here, that are educational - but they are even more fun. These are games children are going to really want play - and they aren't even likely to notice that they are learning.

      My absolute favourite activity in this book involves mirrors and pattern blocks. You must have two small mirrors. I went out and bought a set just for this. You rotate the mirrors back at various angles. The more acute the angle, the better the effects , and you get a brilliant kaleidoscope effect, slowly move the mirrors out to a straight line and make all the different images form back into one. Use a single block and play with some more angles and you can make the image completely disappear. There are quite a few activities here, which will teach children about angles, reflections symmetry and more. Children ( and adults) will also notice the relation between the size of the block used and the number of reflections you can get.The children really loved this one too. Making patterns with rotational symmetry was fun too, as was mirror symmetry.

      There are also some lovely art work suggestions, and some very complex puzzle suggestions, such as giving each piece a number value and trying to create designs to match a given number. This is actually pretty complicated and does require logical though. There is even a board game you can play with the blocks. There are a few pictures you can make with the blocks as well, and photocopiable sheets to serve as templates for the children.

      This book is listed for American grades K - 5. This would be for ages 5 - 10 I believe, Not all activities will suit any one age, but there is a wide range of activities so I feel that this would have enough age appropriate material for a child anywhere in this age range - and a bit to either side as well. There are more than enough activities to make this worth buying for my 4 year old. There are also plenty of activities that I really enjoyed, and of course quite a lot for my 8 year old to do. I had chosen an activity for him in the book, but afterwards he looked thorough it and chose a few of his own.

      If you are just buying this for play value, you mightn't need all the educational information, but I think I would find it nice to know even if I were not home educating. If you are home educating though, or teaching, this is absolutely brilliant. It is clear , concise and very easy to understand setting out step by step instructions that my child could follow without additional assistance, and explaining mathematical concepts in a language That I could easily understand. It gives you a purpose for each exercise, or what the child should be learning as well as recommendations for discussion, concepts that should be explained to the student etc...

      I absolutely love this book - and I've always hated maths of any kind. This makes mathematics and geometry fun. These are activities my sons enjoy doing, not something that feels like school work. The book and blocks have even been dragged out for family game night. I really can't praise this book enough. Instead of just studying abstract concepts in a book, this has helped me find ways to bring maths to life for my sons, as something they can touch and feel and relate to.

      I feel this would be wonderful resource for a teacher, as this is what the book was intended for. This book is designed to develop "early patterns, spatial sense, fractions, basic geometry, symmetry and number operations" I feel that it serves all of these functions very well, but it also has some value outside of maths, by developing artistic concepts. Additionally it has some very good advice about engaging students that would apply to any subject.

      As a book of games for an ordinary family, I feel this is an excellent resource as well. It has all sorts of ideas to keep the children entertained, and with a box of pattern blocks this could provide family entertainment for many years to come. The fact that the child will be learning maths is just an added bonus. Of course for a child struggling with maths, this would provide a means to provide some one on one help without feeling like you adding more school work to the work load of a child who is already struggling. The fact that it gives children a different way to learn may help difficult concepts sink in much more easily as well. I honestly think I would have loved maths as a child if it were taught in the manner this book suggests.

      There are also many who feel that playing with manipulates like this actually increases the connections in the part of brain used for maths and spatial thinking. I'm very skeptical of claims that any product can make a child a genius, and worried when parents put to much emphasis on this, but I can see some value in encouraging games that help a child's brain develop. In particular, a difference in types of play has often been cited as reasons for a gender gap in maths and science skills, although this is rapidly disappearing throughout the world, as girls are given more challenging playthings as well now. Encouraging girls to play with toys like this and see an artistic side of maths is grand in my opinion. But I do feel this should be kept as a game, not something children are forced to do in a quest for a gifted a child. All children are gifted, but we can't choose the gifts, only help them to discover them.

      As a home educator, all of the benefits to both teachers and ordinary families apply, and if you are planning to home educate - I would consider this a very worth while investment that you can expect to use for several years. In addition, fun activities like this provide a break from the more mundane school work and keep the whole family cheerful.

      One of the authors is American, the other Australian, it does use the American definition of trapezoid, which is exactly the opposite of what it should be here. I have no idea which term the Australians use. As long as you can remember to substitute the word trapezium for trapezoid, this is fine, but it could be confusing if a child is using this book on his own. Additionally, while you could reproduce some of the activities with paper shapes, and there is one that calls for paper shapes, overall this book is not really worth buying unless you buy the pattern blocks as well.

      I was lucky to purchase this book for under £6, used but as new. Amazon is selling this at £10.22, with Amazon Marketplace sellers having new copies from £8.70. I don't think I would have bought this if I had not found a good used copy, but now that I have seen it - I'd easily go £30 and I wouldn't sell it for £50 ( unless I knew amazon still had copies for a tenner). It is without a doubt the very best maths book I have found - ever.

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