Numeracy and Understanding Patterns

Understanding patterns is a basic numeracy skill that can be built upon to develop many other mathematical skills. For example, having an understanding of patterns helps with learning skip counting, times tables and addition. Patterns are things that repeat in a logical way. When we teach children about patterns, they will learn to recognize them, see how they change and notice irregularities.

“The goal of early math education should be to help children deepen and mathematize their understanding of pattern.” – Herbert P. Ginsburg

Patterns are a part of algebra — the understanding of patterns and relationships, including sorting and categorizing. How you teach children about patterns will depend on their age. For example, for kids up to age three you can provide patterned material and small objects they can arrange in patterns. For children ages three to four, you can talk to them about patterns and help them to identify patterns around them. This will also help children learn the words that describe different patterns.

Some children pick up sorting and patterning skills quite naturally. However, for those who struggle, you can start by having them compare objects and match like items. You can also have them sort items by colour and then move on to sorting by type. Teach children to classify by grouping items by their attributes. Have them identify what attributes would exclude items from the group. By learning to sort in this way, it will help them advance to creating patterns.

Watch the video below for some fun examples of teaching pattern recognition.

Patterns help children learn what comes next, make predictions, use reasoning skills and make logical connections. To learn more about teaching pattern awareness, check out the resources listed below.

Resources

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