How to use the Pattern Blocks Program

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Copyright 1997/2001 Arcytech. All rights reserved.


This program is pretty easy to use. As you can see from the panel below, the colored shapes on the left, are the pattern blocks or manipulatives which can be clicked on to magically make new shapes. This shapes can then be dragged into the working area. There is no limit as to how many shapes you can make and drag out.

You can then select any of the shapes in the working area by clicking on them with the cursor. Once selected, you can move them to a new location. You will notice that the shapes can only be placed on a particular grid location (i.e they snap into the grid). This is made to facilitate their arrangement and relative placement.

To get rid of any the shapes, once selected, you can drag them right into the recycling bin on the lower left corner.

The shapes selected for this version of the program are the standard sizes and types used commonly as pattern blocks. A short description follows:

This is the triangle and it is the smallest of all the shapes.
This is a square and it is a bit more than twice the size of the triangle -- about 2.3 times. This and the tan parallelogram are the only shapes with a size that is not a even multiple of the triangle!
 This is the rhombus or parallelogram. Its size or area is exactly twice that of the triangle. I.e. you can fit two triangles inside of it.
This is another rhombus or parallelogram with sharper angles and with an area that is half that of the square at about 1.15 times the triangle.
 This is the trapezoid. Its size or area is exactly three times that of the triangle. That means that you can fit three triangles inside of a trapezoid or one blue rhombus and one triangle.
This is the hexagon and it is the largest of all the shapes. Its size or area is exactly six times that of the triangle. You can fit six triangles or three blue rhombus or two trapezoids inside of it.

Let's now describe the tools or icons at the top of the panel. These are used to change the action that you get from clicking at the mouse. Another way to describe this is to say that you change the mode of the program. The following table describes the three modes available:

Icon Symbol  Description
 Clicking on this straight arrow, which looks like a normal cursor, puts the program in normal mode. This is the mode where you can make, select, and drag shapes.
 Clicking on this icon changes the mode to rotate mode. In this mode, clicking on any of the shapes within the working area, will rotate them by 60 degrees counter clock side (just as the arrow shows). After the shape rotates, is will be moved to snap into a new grid location depending on the actual angle. See below for a few more comments on rotation. You need to click on the straight arrow () to go back to normal mode.
 If you want to find out a few details on the different shapes, you click on this icon and then on the shape (or icon) that you are interested in. Again, click on the straight arrow () to go back to normal mode.

The last thing that needs description is the broom . You click on the broom to clear at once all the shapes from the working area. Rest assured that they also get recycled, just like that individual ones that you can recycle yourself.

A Few More Comments on Rotation: All rotations are in 60 degrees increments. A full rotation or a complete circle has 360 degrees or 6 times 60 degrees. That is why each shape can rotate up to six times before it will go back to its original orientation.

Can you guess why all the shapes rotate by 60 degrees? Why not 30 or 90? The whole idea is to rotate them such that they fit nicely into the other shapes when you overlay them. Both 30 and 90 would leave the shapes in an orientation that couldn't be arranged nicely. 60 Degrees happens to be the magic number.

And the final question, why is it that the triangle seems to only rotate into two orientations rather than the six that it is supposed to be? And what about the hexagon? It doesn't seem to rotate at all? Can you think why? This has to do with what is called properties, and it is based on the precise location where their vertices are located and how symmetrical the shapes (or the location of the vertices) are. You could say that that is the way the shapes work when rotated 60 degrees. It is an intrinsic property of the shapes.

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