Magazine article Teaching Children Mathematics

Pattern-Block Quilts

Magazine article Teaching Children Mathematics

Pattern-Block Quilts

Article excerpt


Colene and Noel are trying to decide which quilt they should buy for their new doll. Each quilt was created using pattern blocks. The girls want to choose a quilt that covers the greatest area. Should they choose quilt A or quilt B? Explain.

The goal of the "Problem Solvers" department is to foster improved communication among teachers by posing one problem each month for K-6 teachers to try with their students. Every teacher can become an author: pose the problem, reflect on your students' work, analyze the classroom dialogue, and submit the resulting insights to this department. Every teacher can help us all better understand children's capabilities and thinking about mathematics with their contributions to the journal. Remember that even student misconceptions are valuable.

Classroom Setup

Begin by discussing this problem with your students. Although the students may need help to understand the problem, avoid giving too much guidance. Let students develop their own strategies and ideas for determining which quilt to purchase. Encourage your students to use words, manipulatives, pictures, tables, or other methods to experiment, organize, and explain their thinking about the problem. Some students may choose to remove the same pattern-block pieces from each quilt to compare the area, whereas others may decide to create their quilts using the same color of pattern blocks. Although allowing students to develop their own strategies is best, teachers of younger students may decide to ask students to find the total number of green triangles, red trapezoids, yellow hexagons, blue rhombuses, and so on that cover each shape.

Collect student work, make notes about interactions that took place, and document the variety of student approaches that you observed. Feel free to adapt the problem to fit the level and experience of your students. …

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