Pattern and Structure

Patterns are essentially relationships with some kind of regularity between the elements. For young children, research suggests there are three main kinds (read our article below for more detail): 
  1. Shapes with regular features, and shapes made with some equally spaced dots;
  2. A repeated sequence;
  3. A growing pattern.

Pattern awareness has been described as early algebraic thinking and is important for identifying different kinds of mathematical relationships. Research also shows that young children's ability to identify pattern can predict their mathematical achievement later. The tasks in this feature will help you to develop learners' awareness of pattern and will serve as a springboard to exploring mathematical structures.

You can watch a recording of the webinar in which we discussed the mathematical thinking which can be prompted by these activities.

This article explores the importance of pattern awareness with young children.

Pattern Making 

Age 3 to 5
In this activity, there are lots of different patterns for children to make, describe and extend.

Domino Sequences 

Age 5 to 7
Challenge Level
Find the next two dominoes in these sequences.

Chairs and Tables 

Age 5 to 7
Challenge Level
Make a chair and table out of interlocking cubes, making sure that the chair fits under the table!

Repeating Patterns 

Age 5 to 7
Challenge Level
Try continuing these patterns made from triangles. Can you create your own repeating pattern?

Chain of Changes 

Age 5 to 7
Challenge Level
Arrange the shapes in a line so that you change either colour or shape in the next piece along. Can you find several ways to start with a blue triangle and end with a red circle?

Missing Middles 

Age 5 to 7
Challenge Level
Can you work out the domino pieces which would go in the middle in each case to complete the pattern of these eight sets of three dominoes?

Digit Addition 

Age 5 to 11
Challenge Level
Try out this number trick. What happens with different starting numbers? What do you notice?

Play to 37 

Age 7 to 11
Challenge Level
In this game for two players, the idea is to take it in turns to choose 1, 3, 5 or 7. The winner is the first to make the total 37.

Tables Without Tens 

Age 7 to 11
Challenge Level
Investigate and explain the patterns that you see from recording just the units digits of numbers in the times tables.

Up and Down Staircases 

Age 7 to 11
Challenge Level
One block is needed to make an up-and-down staircase, with one step up and one step down. How many blocks would be needed to build an up-and-down staircase with 5 steps up and 5 steps down?

Sticky Triangles 

Age 7 to 11
Challenge Level
Can you continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?