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Upscale Pattern Blocks

[Updated April 9th, 2020]

First off, I hope you are well. This post represents a portion of my attempt to remain “well enough” in the midst of tremendous uncertainty. Most of my time is spent talking about the teaching and learning of mathematics, something that seems to have ground to a necessary halt in recent days. Given our collective circumstance, the time feels as good as ever to talk about a little project I’ve been working on, and ask for a smidge of help.

The Blocks

Recent access to a laser cutter and a kindergartener got me wondering. I began to play with a few possibilities. One of the fun things that fell out was a set of scaled pattern blocks I’m calling, “Upscale Pattern Blocks”. Essentially, they are pattern blocks scaled in three different sizes. The sizes interacted in some very interesting ways, and after some test cutting and multiple trips to the craft supply store, I ended up with a really fun result.

The first two sets of “Upscale Pattern Blocks” are imaged below on the left. A single set is composed of three sizes of tiles, and can be arranged into a single eight-times scale model of the yellow hexagon. One such possible arrangement (pre-painted) is pictured on the right.

I began to tinker with The Boy. I was amazed (although I shouldn’t have been) at his thinking with the new tiles. Would you guess that “small greens” can cover anything, but “small blues” cannot? Below are a few pictures my wife took while we were playing. I just adore the gamut of emotions–from bemusement to determination to surprise.

The Plan

I want to be able to gift these across classrooms. While the infrastructure to do so is in its infancy, an interesting opportunity arose at my local university, the University of Saskatchewan. Every year the “Images of Research” contest collects entrants from students, faculty, and alumni interested in showcasing their research activities. The contest has a meagre cash prize associated with it, but it is more than enough to get this passion project off the ground. The plan is to direct any associated contest winnings to proliferating this (and possibly other) classroom tools designed to instigate mathematical play with youngsters.

Update: April9th, 2020

The entry won runner-up in the “Viewer’s Choice” category!! Thanks to everyone who voted and amplified the project (from a distance) through your digital networks. Now the task becomes to cast a wider net and spread the math love. Thanks for this little moment of promise in a pretty discouraging time!

Nat

4 replies on “Upscale Pattern Blocks”

Gorgeous. Great idea, Nat!

Vinnysays:

Just gave you a vote, this looks like a great visual learning tool. I’ll be following your blog for more maths related content.

Thelma Snowsays:

This looks so exciting for kids to play with. Similar to a computer game I play, put touching and manipulating would be way more fun. Learning without being aware.

Hey Nat! You’ve got my vote! Way to stop at nothing to Make Math Moments for more kids around the world! Woot!