Visual Patterns

Why Visual Patterns?

Patterning is the basis for Algebraic thinking. Students who have a strong conceptual understanding of patterning, are better able to think algebraically as the representations become more complex and abstract. As students build, play, colour code and describe patterns, they build their ability to think about patterns in flexible ways. Working with visual patterns allows students to see authentic connections between concrete patterns and their symbolic representations, such as tables and graphs.

How Do I Start?

  1. Have students build their own patterns: allow for play and discussion without parameters.
  2. Continue to play with patterns concretely: begin to set parameters (build a decreasing pattern) to encourage students to stretch their thinking. Ask questions that encourage students to define their pattern and think about predictability. Students can build, break, fix and extend patterns with a partner.
  3. Pattern Talk Routines: In the same way the we use number talks regularly, pattern talks give students the opportunity to develop fluency through flexibility by discussing many different patterns over time. Talking about patterns allows students to develop their mathematical vocabulary, as well as their understanding of the many ways to see pattern growth and the associated “pattern rules.” Start with “How do you see the pattern growing?”
  4. Colour coding patterns: Colour coding visual patterns can help students develop an understanding of pattern rules. This understanding allows students to (eventually) see how algebraic expressions reflect pattern rules and the concrete patterns themselves.

Questions to Ask:

  • What do you notice? What do you wonder?
  • What repeats? How do you see the pattern growing?
  • What comes before/after (100th/Nth)? 
  • What affects the relationship in the pattern?
  • How would you describe the pattern (pattern rule)?
  • In what other ways could you record/represent the pattern?
  • How do different representations help us understand patterns?
  • What relationships are/could be expressed in the pattern?

Useful Websites For Getting Started: