The OCTA-TETRA Construction Set is nothing like you've ever seen before. On the website, this product is described as "A hands-on, low-tech, geometric construction set teaching 3-D geometry, design principles, the discovery process, manual dexterity, and more and more. It is designed for kids of about 10-11 years old and on upwards." To get an idea of what is in this kit, you really need to visit the website to view some pictures--http://www.homespun4homeschoolers.com/octa-tetra.htm. To read about how Mr. Suttin, "Uncle Dan" to you and me, began creating the set, there is a wonderful article online--http://familyclassroom.net/hsboys/articles/octa-tetra.html--and you can receive a free instruction booklet by emailing Uncle Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The construction kit contains flat pieces of die-cut cardstock that are ready for assembly. These pieces are scored so that you know where to fold. Once the folds are made, the formed shape is held together with paper clips. With your order, you will receive a DVD of a one-hour workshop that was held with a local family of OCTA-TETRA Club members. In it, Uncle Dan is teaching the mom and her two sons how to assemble the pieces and put in the paper clips. All who order at least 150 pieces will receive this DVD as a special bonus gift and it is well worth it to order the Introductory set to get this DVD.
I am a visual person and the DVD really helped me to better understand how to make the proper folds. In addition to receiving the DVD, a CD of all of the email files that have been shared online is also included with the order. To date (September '06), there are 123 files! Uncle Dan says:
"They can view it on their computer screen or print out specific pages as desired. Book2 (in Book 1 2 3) explains in written form, with pictures, how to put in the clips, but I felt they could benefit from a video presentation as well, so I made the DVD. And besides all the art and architecture stuff I throw in along the way, they are receiving step-by-step instructions on how to build all the models I have built so far as they read the files. Of course, they are encouraged to venture out on their own and make their own unique models and discoveries. Discovery is the name of the game; I have barely scratched the surface. So it's all one and the same, The "Instruction Booklet" goes out by e-mail a file at a time, but is also presented in its entirety on the CD that comes with the pieces."
The "Introductory Set" has 50 TETRAS and 100 OCTA-Normal pieces and costs just $15. All who order at least the "Introductory Set" receive the CD and the How-To DVD as part of their package at no extra cost. If you decide to order at least the "Introductory Set" of 150 pieces, you will also receive a CD that has all the OCTA-TETRA Files up to date; right now that is beyond Book 100 and growing. The CD also contains the "Algebra Workbook" and the "Solution Key" that go with his "Uncle Dan's Algebra Videos." The "Standard Set" has 100 TETRAS and 200 OCTA-Normal pieces and is priced at $30. Beyond that, 60 OCTA-Shorts and 60 OCTA-Longs are usually recommended as the next pieces to purchase so that you can build the pentagonal structures as well. Your order can contain whatever items you wish to order and there is no minimum order required. Shipping charges are based on the weight of the package.
Now you may be wondering exactly what is the purpose of the OCTA-TETRA Construction kit? Upon receiving the many wonderful files that are offered by email, you will soon see how frequently this model is used in architecture and construction of buildings. Pictures of the support structures of bridges and ceilings and walkways explain to the child how geometry is used to build things! The files also contain pictures of finished items and lists of the pieces needed to form the model shown. At this time, there is no printed instruction book that comes with the kit. All information is shared by email and Uncle Dan does a fabulous job of getting this information to his customers. The latest book, Book 21, contains important updates concerning the kind of paper clips to use, and also about the way to fold the OCTA-TETRA pieces. I would like to see a printed "how to" book in the future, if at all possible.
I would recommend the OCTA-TETRA Construction Set for those children (and/or adults) that don't mind a good challenge, have patience, and love to build and make things with their hands. It is also handy if you have some space in your home that you can dedicate to the building process. These pieces are not small like Legos and you can't just pack them all away in a small box at the end of the day. Children have made life-size creations as well as models of bridges, shapes and soccer balls! In asking Uncle Dan about the size of the creations, he reminded me that, "Even though advanced OCTA-TETRA models can be quite spacious, since they are held together with paper clips, the models can be completely taken apart all the way down to the original flat pieces. And, of course, you can use the same pieces over and over again to make different models."
Now, Uncle Dan has set the minimum age of enjoyment of this product at about 10 or 11. This is mostly due to the fact that younger children probably don't have the patience and manual dexterity to be able to slip the paper clips properly into place. Even some older children might find it difficult. However, in his experience, Uncle Dan has found that, "It's the 13-year-olds, the 16-year-olds, the college students, the moms, the dads, and the grandparents that are going to really explode with OCTA-TETRA and build those really advanced models." I found his assessment to be true in our home. My husband and 12 year old daughter went to town with this kit and my 11 year old son wasn't too interested. However, his fine motor skills are a bit lacking so I expected this from him.
In summary, the resulting creations are only as limited as someone's imagination. This construction kit is inexpensive to try out and would make a great learning tool for a family or even a co-op class. Perhaps you'll find yourself starting an OCTA-TETRA club of your very own!