Even before this review, we were very familiar with The Critical Thinking Co. as our family has used many of their resources through the years. This was the first time for us to try Pattern Explorer. Designed for grades 5-7, I used this level 1 Pattern Explorer workbook with my 5th grade son. It is not a stand-alone math curriculum, rather a resource to further develop mathematical reasoning skills through problem solving. Instead of a separate teacher's manual, hints and solutions are provided at the end of this book.
Presentation can make so much difference in acceptance of something. My introduction of this to my son was "Would you like to try Ninja Math?" While it did grab his attention, actually working through it didn't become a requested addition to his school routine.
Ninja math was just one of the sections. Activities also rotated through pattern predictor, equality explorer, sequence sleuth, and number finder. Each of the five sections provided unique mathematical reasoning challenges, and the level of difficulty increases as the student progresses through the lessons. For that reason, we worked through the book in order. Each lesson was 1-2 pages and took from 10-45 minutes to complete.
Sequence Sleuth required figuring out complex sequences. Though Math Ninja was the most anticipated section initially because of the name, Sequence Sleuth was actually his favorite section to tackle. At one point, he spoke out "I see." The point when my son actually figured out what was expected was clear as he worked through the pages.
As engaging as "ninja math" may sound, this was not all fun and games for my 10 year old son. We worked through these challenging problems together, both out loud and with him writing. Most of the time the ones that were clocks or charts or patterns were written, and the ones that could be worked just by thinking through were discussed but not worked out in the workbook. These problems required more than his typical approach to math. They required a higher level of problem solving. Yes, some problems were erased a few times until he figured them out. Adding fractions, finding missing numbers, and algebraic type problems with hearts or circles instead of typical A-B-C components were just some of the challenges included. The Equality Explorer problems used a scale graphic. From the known variables problems had to be applied to a second set to calculate the unknown value balancing the scale.
Though not my son's favorite, I do plan to continue working through the problems in this book with him until he completes the book. I like that it is making him look at problems in a different way and think things through.
My 9th grader also looked through the Pattern Explorer workbook. At first she said it was a little confusing, but once she figured out how to solve the problems she answered them quickly.
I clearly see the benefit of using this workbook, and I recommend it especially to others in the pre-algebra stage. I think kids who enjoy problem solving types of puzzles will enjoy this. I think I would have enjoyed this book as a child.
Others on the Schoolhouse Crew reviewed this or these other products: