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Pattern Blocks Colorful Geometry by Timothy Sharkey
Do you remember playing with pattern blocks and making large beautiful designs in a very short time?
Pattern blocks have barely changed in decades and remain one of the few remaining toys that have survived the waves of technology that have changed how we play forever.
They are so simple when seen and touched, but with the power of geometry, they are become amazingly versatile and complex.
Pattern blocks are a favorite past time in classroom and playrooms alike. They consist of a few basic shapes of different colors and are usually made of wood, but now can be found made of plastic.
Classrooms use them to teach children about colors and shapes and how each shaped block fit within or next to each other.
The children learn how to fit the blocks together without leaving irregular gaps or how some of the shapes of the smaller blocks can be used to create the exact same shapes of the larger ones. This helps them to learn about geometric fractions.
As their deigns come together, the students will attempt to make their pattern symmetrical. This is human nature and helps them to learn how symmetry works. Some students will make a repeating pattern. This is known as tessellation.
Pattern blocks rely heavily on tessellation and symmetry to make the patterns look pleasing to the eye. Children will learn the basics of geometry while they enjoy making their wonderful creations.
They will learn to make new shapes from other shapes.
Pattern blocks have six basic shapes. They are designed to fix next to each other with matching sides to make creating the beautiful tessellating and symmetrical patterns easy for young children. The six shapes are as follows.
Green equilateral triangle
Orange square with sides the same length as the green triangle
Yellow hexagon which is equal to six green triangles three blue parallelograms and two red trapezoids
Blue parallelogram which is equal to two triangles
White parallelogram with sides the same length as the green triangle
Red trapezoid which is equal to three green triangles
Because of the different shapes and the varying amount of sides they posses, symmetrical designs can have any number of rays. The center shape can determine the type of design.
A hexagon would start a snowflake type pattern and the triangle a three sided pattern. Tessellating patterns can use any of the shapes since they support the repeating patterns that a tessellating pattern requires.
A good example of a tessellating pattern is a homemade quilt. Pattern blocks can also be used to create pictures and even words. Finally, the patterns can be three dimensional as long as the children have good balance skills.
There is really no end to the possibilities with these amazingly simple blocks.
Patten blocks can be found in toy stores and classroom supply houses for a fairly low price. The wooden blocks are easier on a Childs hand, but plastic blocks may be better suited for tougher conditions such as a day camp or outdoor use.
Computers have also helped changed how pattern blocks can be used. There are numerous Java program available on the internet and free software for personal computers.
These program allow the students to save their patterns forever which is not possible on their classroom table.
Pattern blocks have been around for quite a while and probably will be for a long time to come.
Even adults cannot resist making pretty designs with them and they are often found in wooden building toy collections along with Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys.
About the Author
Timothy Sharkey works for Softgame Company, maker of card games, video poker and puzzles.
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