Patterning in First and Second Grade

In my combined first and second grade, patterning was a popular activity in the math center during Choice Time.

When using geoboards, most often symmetry was the choice of design, while sometimes repeating designs or making pictures were created. Initially, young children might have put as many elastics on as possible, and we might guess how many were used. But, as they observed others, their choices became more elaborate.

When a child presented a pattern on a pegboard during evaluation time, children were asked to tell what the pattern was. They might see, for example, if the pattern was red, blue, green, yellow, red, blue, green, yellow, red, blue, in the first row, then the second row would start with green and yellow. After looking at the horizontal pattern, we would look at the vertical one and see it’s now red, green, red, green, etc. with each successive row containing just two alternate colors. Then, we’d look at the patterns diagonally noticing red, yellow, green, blue, etc. Since this equipment involved colors, numbers could substitute, so 1 was red, 2 was blue, 3 was green, and 4 was yellow, exposing them to the patterning of number. After seeing the patterns with colors, the board might be hidden, and asked if we went vertically, what would the numbers be? And then show them.

Of course, the youngest children might present a pegboard with no recognizable pattern. They might be asked if there were more red or blue pegs. Let’s count and see. Or, if they were ready for something more complex, are there more red and blue pegs than green and yellow? Again, counting to see. This equipment, as with all equipment and activities that were provided in the class, accommodated different abilities and yet was shared with all. The youngest children received as much attention for their efforts as the older ones. However, the youngest children were always exposed to higher achievements that they, too, could participate in when they were ready. By making the simplest offerings more complex, it still could appeal to the brightest. Hopefully, everyone had a chance to feel good about their projects.

So, patterning was a big part of our program. It is important because math is a patterning of number and a study of patterns. So many problems can be solved if patterning is well understood plus it contributes to their study of geometry.

Read more about the math center and patterning in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved