It is easy to overlook the objective of teaching patterns in kindergarten. After all, how does looking at different pictures and colors in a sequence benefit students in the long run? The answer is simple: complex patterns are found in math in several ways. So, recognizing different patterns prepares students for later mathematical success. In addition, identifying patterns requires strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for higher education!
For example, think about when students learn to write to 100. It is easier to write all of the numbers if they recognize how each row’s tens place starts with the next larger number. They can also see that each column has 1-2 digit numbers that all end with the same number in the one’s place. Patterns are also helpful when students first learn to count by 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s. Later on, when students learn multiplication, they use some form of patterning to see the connection between repeated addition and multiplication.
So, how do we teach pattern awareness so that students can apply it to more advanced math concepts later on? To simplify patterns for kindergarten students, I used many activities with pattern practice! These activities are a great way to teach early math skills such as patterns to young children! In addition, these activities incorporate other essential skills like fine motor skills and more!
Students need to start learning about patterns with hands-on practice. Using hands-on practice is one of the best ways to teach basic math skills to students. For example, you can use pattern blocks and practice building patterns together. As students get more familiar with patterns and the different types of patterns, they can work independently on pattern cards. For example, after looking at the pattern blocks pictured at the beginning of the pattern, they can continue the pattern with the actual blocks. I love activities like this because students can apply what they learn in a logical way.
You can use different materials, as well. For example, different-colored counting bears, pom poms, and even snap cubes are all simple resources for your students to create their own patterns!
Another activity you can do when teaching patterns is to have students complete a pattern book. First, they can color an example of a specific pattern type on one page. Then, they can create their own pattern that matches that same type of pattern on the next page. A pattern book is a great practice activity, providing students with visual patterns they can refer back to. In addition, students can look at the variety of patterns in the book to help them figure out a new pattern or reinforce their already learned skills!
After learning more abstract patterning (as in not with real objects), students are ready to do cut-and-paste-style pattern activities. For example, students can look at the pattern in a row, decide the kind of pattern, and then cut and paste the picture to complete the pattern. Simple activities like this help students recognize patterns with a small margin of error since students can choose from several options. In addition, students can identify the pattern rule in the activity.
Cut-and-paste activities are also great for enhancing fine motor skills. I always try to combine a few essential skills into my activities, so my students develop well-rounded skills for their daily lives. For example, students develop fine motor skills by cutting and gluing the pattern objects onto paper!
Fill in the Missing Object
As a more complex pattern activity, students can fill in the missing piece of the pattern. This activity is more complicated for two reasons. First, students typically had the pieces available to them in other tasks. This activity requires students to draw them on their own. Second, in the simpler activities, the students completed the pattern by finishing what should be at the end of the pattern. With these types of activities, the missing object could be anywhere in the pattern. When students are ready for more difficult patterning tasks, filling in the missing object is a great option.
In addition, activities like filling in the missing object require students to make logical connections about patterns, leading to enhanced learning. For example, students have to use critical thinking to determine the missing part of the pattern. Then, they have to determine where it fits into the pattern to complete it!
Benefits of Teaching Patterns in Kindergarten
Overall, teaching patterns in kindergarten remains an essential objective. Recognizing and completing patterns is a great start to learning more complex math concepts. So, building the foundations of this skill at a young age prepares students for advanced algebraic thinking, which they will use in high school and beyond!