After several minutes of exploration time (THIS is crucial!! Allow kids to "play" with the pattern blocks BEFORE using them as intended manipulatives or they'll never listen!), we shared out what they noticed about the pattern blocks. We reviewed what each piece is called. "Hold up the hexagon... the rhombus with all right angles. . . trapezoid, etc." Besides building very cool shapes and pictures, many students noticed and stated the pattern and relationships between the various shapes. (2 triangles are the same as the blue rhombus... 6 triangles fit in the hexagon... 2 trapezoids fit in the hexagon, etc.)
After exploration time, I wrote an improper fraction on our SMARTboard. Students worked in partners to build that fraction. After a few minutes of building these at their desks, several students used the SMARTboard to share how they solved the fraction. For example, 8/6 could be made with 8 triangles or 1 hexagon and 2 triangles. (Thus, 8/6 = 1-2/6 or 1-1/3) Since they had spent enough time playing with the pattern blocks, many of my kids automatically used the blue rhombus to represent the 2 green triangles. (This also helped to solve the problem of "I don't have enough triangles. . .")
Using the pattern blocks made improper fractions very tangible!
We also practiced building mixed numbers with the pattern blocks. After a couple days of this lesson, most of my kids were able to understand WHY improper fractions become mixed numbers and visa versa.
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