When we look around us in the world we live in patterns are everywhere! Some are very simple such as a striped shirt or some are much more complex such as the patterns on animals and plants. But, when we start talking about mathematical concepts we need to start with the world around your child. Often times we forget that we live in a mathematical world and when you show this, you provide that learning excitement!
What is a pattern? We teach children that a pattern is something that repeats itself. And, it is important to remember that it is not a pattern until the repeat is completed. Often times a child will start a pattern or copy part of a pattern, but not complete the repeat. This is not a pattern until the whole repeat is completed. (red, blue, red is not a pattern, but red, blue, red, blue is a pattern) (triangle, circle, circle is not a pattern but triangle, circle, circle, triangle, circle, circle is a pattern)
So… how do we explore patterns? What are the steps and stages?
1–Recognizing patterns— show your child examples and non-examples of patterns. Start by just asking what do you see? This could be the pattern on real world objects, photos or ones you made with every day items in your house. (first two have patterns and the second two are random
2–Describing patterns— Tell me what you see. Label it! Start by seeing how your child would independently label that pattern, what will they say without your influence?
3– Copy a pattern–Often times we teach children to label patterns as AB, ABB, ABC, AABB etc… One reason for this is to help children see similarities in patterns. They often see red, blue, red, blue as a different pattern from green, orange, green, orange. Even though the colors are different, they are the same type of pattern. So teaching this form of labeling helps them see similarities in patterns.
Now that your child can see a pattern, have them copy a pattern either from the natural world, or one you have created. Using real world objects helps too… toys are always a fun manipulative. (click here to see a previous post on Lego patterns). For this skill, you want your child to just reproduce the pattern you made exactly! I suggest that you start with an AB pattern, but get creative once he/she gets good at copying your patterns.
4– Extend a pattern– This is having your child take a made pattern and adding onto it. Can they continue the known pattern? This means they need to see a pattern, identify the pattern, copy it and then build on from there!
5– Create a pattern– This is where the fun starts. Can your child make patterns on his her own?
As your child experiments with patterns, go back into the steps with harder and harder patterns. Add a third color/object. Often times, once they get the concept, they can go back to the extend part and build on from there. Try patterns such as red, blue, pink, pink, green ABCCD…does he/she recognize the double pink? Another fun one to do is blue green blue red ABAC… did they get tripped up in the color change?
When children struggle with patterns we have them go back and name the pattern. Often times they try to pattern too quickly and forget the repeat part. When you have the child say the color, shape, item or even the letter while pointing to the pattern it helps. (note one-to-one correspondence needs to be mastered for this skill)
So…. have fun. Play with patterns