A few more chapters into Blue Balliett's The Calder Game, we had to stop, and look up "pentominoes". From reading reviews of the first two books in Balliett's art based mystery series, I get the impression they play a more pivotal roll those stories. In this book, the character Calder, carries a set in his pocket, and fiddles with them when he's mulling over a problem.
We gathered they were math tools of some kind, and that they could look like letters, but we weren't sure what they were. So, we were surprised to find we have several sets, and have been playing with them for sometime, as part of our Blokus game.
Pentominoes are the five square, pieces from the game. Or rather, they are any set of five, touching, congruent squares.
The twelve pieces can be looked at as the letters - f, i, n, l, p, t, u, v, w, x, y, and z.
According to Wikipedia, they are named after the letters of the Latin alphabet they vaguely resemble (not necessarily the way I have them turned in the picture), but there is an alternate labeling method, where they become the letters - o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, and z.
They can be arrange into a number of different shapes, sort of tangram style. E (age 6), and I spent some time arranging them into different sized rectangles, and squares this morning, using solutions from, here, as a guide.
Then, we tried out the online pentominoes challenge Scholastic has to go along with the series.
It has three levels of difficulty. The most difficult level was challenging for me. But, E was thrilled to discover she could handle the beginning level, completely on her own.
We also found an entire pentominoes lesson plan, at the Utah Education Network, designed to go along with Balliett's series, which includes printable grids to make your own set, with challenges included.
It's great to be a homeschooler.