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Teaching Young Children All About Patterns in Math

written by: Tracey Bleakley • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 1/5/2012

Your kindergarten and first grade students will become patterns experts with these fun games and activities. Use these patterns in math to teach your students how to identify, copy, create and extend patterns.

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    What to Use

    You can teach math patterns with a variety of materials. Students can be educated on math patterns during whole class or in small group instruction. Many of these materials can also be used as math centers.

    Pattern Blocks

    Pattern blocks are great tools for teaching patterns. The first time you use them give your students some time to just play with them. You might want to leave them out at a center for students to explore or just put a bucket of the blocks at each table and give your students a few minutes to use the pattern blocks. Either way, once everyone has played with manipulatives discuss what they noticed about the blocks and talk about the shapes and colors.

    Once your students are familiar with pattern blocks you can use them to introduce patterns. Make a pattern in a pocket chart with the blocks and have the students say it and then talk about what will come next. Let the students copy it with the pattern blocks at their desks or tables. Later students can do the same activity with a partner. One student will make a pattern and the other one will continue it.

    Snap Cubes

    You can use snap cubes or Unifix cubes to play a game called "What Comes Next?" Have the students use the cubes to make pattern towers that are ten cubes long. Give each student half of a toilet paper roll and have them slip it onto one end of their tower. Then their partner has to guess which cubes are covered up. This same game can be played with pattern blocks, using an index card to cover some of the blocks.

    Food

    Use cereal for some fun edible math activities with patterns. String Fruit Loops onto yarn or string to make patterned necklaces or bracelets. Your students can also practice making patterns with other colored cereals like Trix or with candy like Skittles or M&M's. They can eat them with they are finished or glue them onto a piece of card stock to keep them.

    Make colored pasta by mixing a few drops of food coloring and a tablespoon or two of rubbing rubbing alcohol with different shaped, dry pasta noodles. Let it dry overnight and then let your students use the pasta to make some pattern art pictures. Challenge then to to see how many different patterns they can make and glue them onto a piece of construction paper or card stock.

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    Quick Examples of Everyday Math Patterns

    You don't have to spend long periods of time to teach patterns. Many of these math activities with patterns can be done in five or ten minutes.

    • Line up your students in different patterns like boy, girl, boy, girl or girl, girl, boy, girl, girl, boy.
    • When you are standing in line or just have a few minutes to spare you can clap patterns or use actions to make patterns like clap, clap, snap, snap, clap, clap, snap, snap or arms up, arms down, clap, arms up, arms down, clap.
    • Point out patterns to the students when you see them, such as stripes on someone's shirt or the stripes on the flag.
    • Make patterns with your calendar pieces. Instead of all red apples on your calendar, you could alternate red and green. Have students predict which calendar piece will be added each day. Vary the patterns throughout the school year.

    Your students will have lots of fun learning about patterns with these fun ideas. Try these math pattern activities and these, too!