Patterning and Algebra In the Primary Grades
Shelley Sauter
W.P. Bate School,
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


To introduce patterning at the Kindergarten to Grade One level, we start to recognize and talk about patterns using colors, shapes and size. I use a lot of hands on activities and start off with large manipulatives. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Using children in your class (boy/girl/boy)

  2. Using chairs (front/back/front)

  3. Using objects around the classroom like pencils, erasers, chalk brushes, etc.

  4. Linking cubes, blocks, colored beads, colored macaroni, fruit loops, pattern blocks

  5. Laminated pattern strips with shapes traced onto them for students to continue the pattern using manipulatives (bread tags placed in different directions, pattern blocks, or any other shapes that you want to trace and color)

  6. Sorting of pattern strips and "non-pattern" strips

  7. Using stamps and stamp pads for students to create patterns

  We start by using two items that repeat to form a pattern and then work our way up to three or four items. The students will work on continuing a pattern, creating patterns and identifying patterns in our environment. It is important to do our "Math Talk" and communicate what we observe and discover.
  As students gain an understanding we move on to patterns in numbers. For this we use the 100 chart a lot. I will have photocopied and laminated individual charts for students to have at their desks. From this, we:

  1. Count by 10's, 5's and 2's

  2. Examine patterns found in two digit numbers

  3. Identify odd and even numbers

  We would then move on to look at patterns in addition and subtraction. When we discover these patterns, this will help to strengthen skills and concepts in Mental Math. Here are a few ideas:
  1. Adding "one more" to a number

  2. Skip counting or adding +2

  3. Adding 10 to a single digit number

  4. Adding and subtracting zero

  By Grade 3 and 4, I would start to do some problem solving where students would be looking for number patterns. I like using the idea of Problem of the Day (or Week). For example:

   3 is to 6, as 5 is to ___ ?

  There is often more than one answer, so it is important the students explain and talk through their answers.

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