I like to make one of our math units each week involve some concept that we're not currently studying. Sometimes it's a cool, big project, sometimes it's a small game or puzzle, sometimes it's something that connects to some OTHER subject that we're studying (Ancient Egypt is great for math!), and sometimes it's simply something that involves one of our school materials that we haven't pulled out in a while.
For the past few weeks, for instance, that unit has been all about the pattern blocks:
We all love pattern blocks--they're so colorful and pretty and fun to play with!--but until recently, I never really had the variety of uses for them that would cause them to regularly appear in our school work. I mean, with Cuisenaire rods and Base 10 blocks and number tiles you can do addition and subtraction and multiplication and division and fractions and so on, but we only ever pulled out pattern blocks for patterning, symmetry, and fun.
But now that I've focused in on pattern blocks, I've discovered that there are PLENTY of other mathy uses for them. Most of the resources that I've been using come from our university's education library--
--in particular, this pattern blocks logic/math book that we've settled into:
The kids have been practicing some really great logic and problem solving skills using the activities in this book, especially Will, who's not naturally a visual learner:
This task in particular, which required them to fill each shape with exactly seven pattern blocks, frustrated and stumped her long after Syd had blithely breezed through it:
I know I shouldn't have helped her at all, because it was well within her capabilities, but I did suggest just once that perhaps that bigger block could be made up from two smaller blocks to increase the number of total blocks, and I was frankly amazed when she actually took my suggestion with good grace, and then ran with it, zipping through the remaining shapes. Perhaps that success will give her better stamina for the next project, so that I won't even feel tempted to help her.
At some point I splurged on paper pattern blocks and a set of pattern block stencils, so to finish up each activity I always ask the girls to either paste their solution on or trace and copy it on--they like it, and it makes it look nice for their math portfolio.
Fortunately, the IU Libraries have LONG check-out periods, so if the girls seem bored with pattern blocks in a few weeks we can take a break and still keep the book for when they seem fun again. I've also got a couple of DIY projects in mind for patterny block manipulatives, and I put a bunch of pattern block ideas into my Homeschool Math: Geometry pinboard. Next up, though: we're doing fractions in Math Mammoth right now, and it turns out that pattern blocks also make great fraction manipulatives!