Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Math & Art

Have you seen the Chasing Vermeer book yet? I heard about the series a few weeks ago over on All Most Unschoolers. I was taken by the idea of teaching art through a fun read aloud, and I was equally amazed our library actually had the books!

So we stuck book one, Chasing Vermeer on our library list and we waited for it's arrival. My kids think it's awesome fun to wait on books from the library. No sarcasm intended. You see, I keep forgetting to change the notification for the kids cards to email so we get these hideous recordings stating that Mr Jayden or Mr Morgan .... has a book at the library that you placed on hold. It goes through the entire speel and then boldly says, "Thank you and good-bye" a huge long pause happens before the computer voice loudly says, "Now, for your convenience this message will be repeated!"

Anyway, our book arrived and despite the boys fighting colds we ran off to pick it up. I figured I could read it to them while they lounged. Yeah, that was until I got a cold. So the book sat on our shelf and begged us to read it, and last night while we waited for the Shepherd's pie (that wouldn't finish cooking) to cook I started reading the book to the boys.

The book combines math (pentominoes) and art. We're only in the first 3 chapters so we haven't totally gotten to the art aspect yet, but we have gotten to the pentominoes. Which means, we couldn't resist pulling some out. Do you own Blockus? Then you own pentominoes. Four lovely sets of them to be exact. There's a list of the 12 pentominoes listed in the front of the book and information about who uses them and why. There's also a clue to the mystery in the beginning there too, but we're a tad too early in the book to know exactly what the clue is.

Needless to say, the boys and I couldn't resist pulling out pentominoes for math today. So most of the afternoon was spent with the three of us sprawled across the lounge room floor as we attempted to build rectangles using all our pieces. Here's the thing about pentominoes. Your rectangles might not be the same each time, they might even have missing spaces in them! It's tricky, but fun.

Jayden was quickly frustrated with his efforts and he resorted, quite quickly, to filling in the Blockus board, which kept him busy and entertained while Morgan and I continued working. Morgan had many theories on how to make his work and he put them all to use and did pretty well often having just one block overlapping or the occasional "extra" piece.

So we looked up some funtatic pentomino solutions (thanks again to The All Most Unschooling Crew) and used our pentominoes to build some rectangles with all our pieces. Jayden was a little resistant sure he couldn't handle it, but I told him I'd help him and before long I was kicked completely out while he set to work building all sorts of beautiful rectangles.

They have been totally taken by this! Morgan is now desperate to obtain his own personal set of pentominoes that he can put in his pocket and carry around, much like one of the main characters in the book. He's asked many questions about where and when we'd be able to find a set and even went so far as to drop a hint and say, "Wouldn't this be a great twelfth birthday present because there are exactly 12 pieces." Mind you, he's only ten and I don't think he'd handle waiting another 2 years to obtain his own little set.

I googled printable pentominoes, and Scholastic happened to have a set available that goes right along with the book! Which led us to the Blue Balliett section of Scholastic where we found a pentominoes game online. We've mastered the first two levels at least once, and after working at it for most of the afternoon we conquered the third (and hardest) level!

If all that isn't enough fun to keep you going, in the back of the book there's a bit of information about the artist focused on in the story as well as a couple of his paintings. There's extra information back there about the author, illustrator, and pentominoes too if you're interested.


Renelle said...

Hi Kendra,
You just have a wonderful knack or skill at making your kids education so much fun and full of variety. there are always so many referrals for great products and resources and ideas, all I can say is WOW! I wish I lived closer so I could catch some of what you've got!

Kendra said...

Oh Renelle, that is so incredibly kind and sweet of you to say! :) Funniest part about all that "stuff" last week? I was fighting a cold and felt like we hardly did anything, but we did have fun with what we did do. :)

Liz said...

Kendra, have a look at The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers - it features some paintings by Vermeer also and will likely be in your local library. :-)

Kendra said...

Thanks Liz, i'm shocked that they do have it! ;) My kids are actually coloring in a Vermeer painting as I type so we'll have to run by the library this evening and see if we can score the book. :)