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Opening Patterns

Age 5 to 7 Challenge Level:

Opening Patterns

Here are some photographs taken at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing. Have a look at all the images and see what shapes and patterns you can find.
Hovering over a picture will enlarge it.

Some of the pictures show lots and lots of people in lines, or squares, or circles.
Can you (and lots of your friends!) make shapes like these?
Can you plan your own opening ceremony?


Why do this problem?

This activity will give children opportunities to describe the mathematical shapes they can see in the images. It will help them to develop their understanding of concepts associated with shape such as straight, curved, wavy, square, rectangle, circle and so on. The sophistication of the mathematical language used can be developed as far as the children can manage.

Possible approach

You may want to have two versions of the pictures - one that the whole class can see whilst you have class discussions, and then printed versions for paired or group work. Here is a PowerPoint presentation with all the images; from this you can print each slide individually and laminate them if you want printed versions. Alternatively clicking on the picture in the task itself will enlarge it.

Show the first picture (fireworks in circles) and ask the children what they can see. Where do they think this is? Why? What shapes can they see? Are there any questions they would like to ask about the picture?

As you work through the images, share the common theme, which is that they are from the 2008 Olympic Games in China. Your class could compare these with some of the patterns they saw at the Opening Ceremony in London.

Key questions

What shapes can you see? How are they made?

Could we make this shape? How?

Possible extension

If you are feeling really adventurous you could devise your own opening ceremony using the children to move around and make different shapes. This could develop into a cross-curricular theme if you bring in what music might be suitable (and characteristic of the UK), how could we record what we plan so that we remember it, what did the opening ceremony look like the last time it was in the UK, how could wearing different colours make it different....etc?

Possible support

Children could work in pairs to draw over shapes they see on laminated images.

Photograph acknowledgements:

Vladimir Rys/Bongarts
Adam Pretty/Getty Images AsiaPac
Clive Rose/Getty Images
China Photos/Getty Images
Min Guo
Tim Wang
Richard Giles?
Paul Gilham/Getty Images AsiaPac
Adam Pretty/Getty Images AsiaPac
Wow Cool Pics
Getty Images: Cameron Spencer