Pattern blocks are a type of mathematical manipulatives, developed in the 1960s by the Elementary Science Studies. They allow children to see how shapes can be decomposed into other shapes and introduces them to tilings. The standard pattern blocks are divided into two different sets. In the first set, the shapes can all be built out of the green equilateral triangle. This set contains:
The second set contains shapes that can't be built of the green triangle, but can still be used in tiling patterns
- Square (Orange)
- Small rhombus (Beige)
Pattern blocks are not only just for mathematics, they can also be used to build pictures including animals, flowers, boats and ships, rockets and planes, cars, trains, and many others. A lot of graphic designers use pattern blocks for artistic purposes.
An example of their use is given by Meha Agrawal: "Starting from the center, I would add tier after tier of blocks to build my pattern — it was an iterative process, because if something didn't look aesthetically appealing or fit correctly, it would require peeling off a layer and reevaluating ways to fix it. The best part was the gratification I received when my creation was complete. Though individually boring, collectively these blocks produced an intricate masterpiece that brought art and math, big-picture and detail, simplicity and complexity closer together".
A number of compatible shapes that extend pattern blocks are commercially available. Two sets of "Fractional Pattern Blocks" exist: both with two blocks. The first has a pink double hexagon and a black chevron equivalent to four triangles. The second has a brown half-trapezoid and a pink half-triangle. Another set, Deci-Blocks, is made up of six shapes, equivalent to four, five, seven, eight, nine and ten triangles respectively.
- Picciotto Math Education
- McFarland, Matt (9 December 2013). "The childhood toys that inspired female engineers and scientists". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- "Spark: Math Manipulatives". www.ucds.org.
- Pattern Block Templates: Printable Worksheets for Pattern Blocks
- Flash Pattern Blocks for web and Mandalar for mobile devices (iOS/Android).
- ETA/Cuisenaire: Educational manipulatives & supplemental materials for grades PreK-12.
- Background on the Elementary Science Study
- Educational and supplemental materials for K-12