Math Game Monday: Pattern Block Mastermind

“Pattern Block Mastermind” is free on this website for one week only. It’s an excerpt from Let’s Play Math, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.

Many parents remember struggling to learn math. We hope to provide a better experience for our children.

And one of the best ways for children to enjoy learning is through hands-on play.

This game encourages logical thinking about permutations — the different ways blocks can be arranged in a row.

Pattern Block Mastermind

Math Concepts: permutations, logical deduction.

Players: two or more.

Equipment: pattern blocks, pencil and two pieces of paper.

How to Play

One player (the codemaker) folds a piece of paper in half and creates a secret row of three pattern blocks (with no duplicates) along the inside crease.

The other players (codebreakers) draw a vertical line on their paper. Label the wider column “Guesses” and the other “Clues.”

The codebreakers take turns making a three-block row in the “Guesses” column. The codemaker responds by drawing the appropriate clues beside that row:

  • If one of the blocks is the right shape in the right place, say “There’s one block correct,” and draw a smiley face in the clues column. Do not tell which block won the smiley.
  • If one of the blocks is a correct shape but in the wrong place, say “There’s one block right, but it’s not where it belongs,” and draw an empty circle in the clues column.
  • If more than one block matches the secret code, tell the total number of correct and almost-right shapes — and draw that many smiley faces and plain circles — but never reveal which block matches which clue.

With two players, let each player have a chance to be the codemaker. Whoever breaks the code with the fewest guesses wins. For group play, whoever guesses the row correctly gets to be codemaker for the next round.

Three-block patterns are the beginner level. Experienced players may create longer rows and allow duplicate blocks.

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