What is a pattern?

This week in Kindergarten our focus was on patterns.  I began by asking the kids whether they knew what a pattern was.  All said “yes” in unison.  So I called on someone to tell me.  “It’s when you have one color and then another color, and then the one color, and then another.”  Does it have to be color?  The student said that it does.  But other students disagreed.  “It could also be shapes,” a second student said.  Everyone agreed that you could alternate shapes instead of colors.  Anything else?  No, just colors and shapes.

I called on a kid and asked her to continue the pattern: woof, meow, woof, meow.  Not surprisingly, she had no trouble continuing.  The next kid was asked to continue the pattern clap, stomp, stomp, clap, stomp, stomp…  Again, this was pretty easy.  We continued with a few more variations on the theme, mostly using sounds and physical motions.  Sometimes the students would get confused, but for the most part they were able to continue.

Next, we moved on to doing some patterns on paper, and I was a bit surprised to see that these were much harder for the kids.  The “patterns” were no harder than what we had done with the sounds, mostly ABAB, ABCABC, and ABBABB, but half of the kids had to say the names of the objects out loud to spot the pattern and figure out what should come next.

I began day 2 by asking the students whether a pattern always has to repeat.  I was not surprised to hear a unanimous “yes”.  I then asked the kids one by one to continue the following patterns: 1, 2, 3, 4…;   2, 4, 6, 8…;   10, 20, 30,…;   7, 6, 5, 4.  They had no trouble with any of these.

Then came the most fun part: letting kids make patterns of their own using snap cubes.


We finished off the week with tessellations.  We read Emily Grosvenor’s book Tessellation!   The children loved the pictures of tessellating nature.  This one was voted as the favorite:


Another image that they explored for a very long time, even before we started reading the story, was this one:


They said that it looked like a beehive and also like flowers (a hexagon and all the ones that touch it make a flower).  They also wanted to count all the hexagons and had a discussion about whether it is easier to count them left to right or top to bottom.

Next week I plan on having them look for patterns on the big hundreds chart that is hanging in their classroom.  I am also looking for other ideas.  How would you explore patterns with Kindergartners?





About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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2 Responses to What is a pattern?

  1. angandmae says:

    This was such a great post!


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