Living Math: Using Attribute Blocks

Attribute blocks are a great learning tool for elementary students!

(This post contains affiliate links and links to my products.)

What are attribute blocks?

Attribute blocks are a set of unique and versatile manipulatives (hands-on objects) used for teaching math, science, logic and critical thinking skills.  The set includes 60 pieces:

  • five shapes: circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, hexagons
  • three colors: red, yellow, blue
  • two sizes: small and large
  • two thicknesses: thin and thick

While many manipulatives can be handmade or cut from paper, attribute blocks are best when purchased because a key factor in their use relies on the varying thickness of the pieces.  You’ll see why in just a moment.

Attribute blocks can help in teaching shapes, patterns, proportions, congruent and similar concepts, fractions, classification, comparing and contrasting, verbal description, and analytical thinking – among other things.  Like I said, they are VERY versatile!

Logic & Critical Thinking Activities

Enrichment Units in Math: A hands-on, analytical book of lessonsIf you’ve been around here much, you know my love for all things logic in the homeschool.  Today I’d like to share a few ways we’ve been using attribute blocks to teach logic & critical thinking.  You’ll be glad to know I didn’t have to dream up most of these ideas – and you won’t have to either!  As part of the Prufrock Press review team, I chose to take a peek at Enrichment Units in Math, Book 1 by Judy Leimback.  An entire section of the book is devoted to analytical thinking with attribute blocks!

Attribute blocks are a great learning tool for elementary students!

1.  As with any new manipulative, allow your child to EXPLORE first.  Play, fiddle, look, touch, build, sort – whatever your child cares to do on his own terms.  I allow as much exploration time as desired before diving into lessons.

2.  Get to know the blocks by challenging your child to sort them into similar groups.  Then sort again into different groups.  An entire lesson can be spent sorting since you can continually find new characteristics (attributes) by which to sort the blocks.

3.  Turn classification into critical thinking as you challenge your child to make “block sentences” where each block is only one attribute away from the block beside it.  In other words, place a small, thick, red square in front of him and ask him to place another block next to the circle that only differs in one attribute. He might choose, for instance, a small, thick, red, circle.  Everything is the same EXCEPT the shape.

Don’t worry if this seems a bit confusing, the worksheets in Enrichment Units in Math walk you through every step of these “block sentence” activities. 

Attribute blocks are a great learning tool for elementary students!

4.  Over the course of several days, take five or ten minutes each day to build on the “block sentence” challenges.  If you asked for sentences that included one attribute difference yesterday, ask for two attribute differences today.  Three tomorrow.  Four the next day.

What I love about Enrichment Units in Math, is the sequential progression of “block sentences” and the many other types of challenges they offer.  The activities even stretched me at times!

Venn diagrams are a great learning tool to teach logic, critical thinking and classification skills.

Just a quick note that Enrichment Units in Math covers more than attribute blocks.  You’ll also find plenty of critical thinking lessons using Venn diagrams, tangrams and Ancient Egyptian numbers.

Need help with a living math mindset?

Math textbooks are indeed important!  However, so are activities like logic and critical thinking and/or using manipulatives to increase understanding.  Most textbooks don’t do a great job covering the essential “extras”.  In Loving Living Math, I concisely teach you how to add extras like these and many more to round out your homeschool math curriculum.

Loving Living Math: a how-to guide for adding living math in your homeschool


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