Do you enjoy playing those brain training games or doing crosswords? Me and my boys love that stuff. I think there is a lot of value in puzzles and other activities that get your brain to think in unusual ways. For this review, my youngest got to check out Pattern Explorer Level 1 from The Critical Thinking Co. Aimed at grades 5-7, it provides a number of different activities that help children recognize patterns and develop mathematical reasoning skills.
The book is set up around five themes, with eight activities per theme. Typical activities include Number Ninja where students complete Sudoku-like puzzles or work out equations to make the answer correct. Pattern Predictor asks students to find the pattern with numbers or shapes. Other themes include Equality Explorer, Sequence Sleuth, and Function Finder. The activities are similar as far as how they are done, but they get progressively more complex as time goes on.
When my son first started working in the book, I did each activity with him, going over the instructions and working the first problem together. After introducing him to each of the themes, I let him take over. I checked his work using the answer key, and was available to help him out if he got stuck.
I usually assigned him one to two pages a day that he did before his regular math as sort of a “warm up”. Generally, it never took him more than 10-15 minutes to complete the activities and he enjoyed doing them. I will say that as we got further in, the activities became more challenging, and there were times I needed to refer to the answer key in order to help my son. He was particularly good at the sequence and number activities and probably struggled most with the function and equality activities.
I feel like the activities in the Pattern Explorer book are great preparation for algebra. Kids really have to play with numbers to get them to fit and learn how to recognize the patterns, much like they do when solving equations. Determining the functions and balancing the equations are also excellent preparation for upper level math. The hints for each activity were also very helpful, since you can use them to give your child clues when they get stuck, without revealing the answer.
I think you could definitely use this book as a supplement to a math curriculum, or as some quick and fun practice during school breaks. We also found it very helpful for those busy days when we are doing “car schooling”. It could also be used to provide an extra challenge to younger students who are really good at math. Pattern Explorer costs $14.99, which seems reasonable to me. To find out more, connect with the Critical Thinking Company on social media here: