Why is pattern awareness important? Spotting underlying patterns is important for identifying many different kinds of mathematical relationships. It underpins memorisation of the counting sequence and understanding number operations, for instance recognising that if you add numbers in a different order their total stays the same. Pattern awareness has been described as early algebraic thinking,
It is important to introduce children to a variety of repeating patterns. We begin by copying patterns to increase pattern awareness. We help them to focus on ‘What is the same and what is different?’ and to see the underlying pattern structure. When children make their own patterns, a helpful question is, ‘What is the rule for your pattern?
What to look out for in children’s responses to pattern challenges.
Copying and continuing the pattern:
matching cubes one at a time
using complete units eg. picking up a red and a blue cube together
Making or drawing pattern from memory (show briefly, then hide all or part):
some elements correct, eg either colour or number, but not both;
showing correctly; constructing in units.
Spotting a mistake and repairing the pattern:
spotting the mistake but making local corrections, creating a new problem;
correcting the mistake, starting from the beginning again;
directly correcting the mistake, explaining why it was wrong.
Explaining the pattern:
in own words, eg ‘It’s little, big, big’;
generalising: ‘its like ABB’.
Making your own pattern with similar or different objects:
with different objects, but matching colours; or vice versa;
making with very different objects;
‘translating’ in different modes, eg using sounds or symbols.
Once children begin to spot patterns they see them everywhere, not only in the environment, but also in daily routines and all kinds of regular behavior. Most important of all, children find pattern activities engaging and so they can help to develop positive attitudes and access to mathematics for all children.
These are some of the patterns we made and found all around our classroom.