Many people believe that all of mathematics is about finding, explaining and linking patterns. That is why patterns are included in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.
Patterns are especially important in early mathematics learning. They can be fun and creative, and they lead into many fundamental ideas.
- The concepts of multiplication, even and odd numbers, and area measurement all arise from repeating patterns.
- The concepts of division, fractions, time lines, measurement of length, and numeration all involve equal partitioning — which also relates to repeating patterns.
- Describing how the terms change in a growing pattern can lead to simple algebra.
- Exploration of spatial patterns leads to simple geometry; for example:
- concepts of symmetry, congruence, collinearity, sides and faces
- names of common shapes and their basic properties
- ideas such as tessellations and nets.
There are many topics in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics that relate to patterns. You can download a list of content descriptions in Patterns and their Applications in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.
Thinking about patterns can be organised around some big ideas: patterns are everywhere, mathematical patterns are regular, patterns repeat, patterns can grow and patterns can be found in shapes.
Students often have difficulty with some basic ideas about patterns. It is important that they learn these ideas well.
How do you teach students about patterns?
How can we find out how much students know about patterns?
Student activities that appear in other parts of the drawer have been collected here.
All downloadable files, such as student worksheets, teacher notes, activity templates and video transcripts, are available here.
The Patterns drawer was written by a team from the Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie University led by A/Prof. Michael Mitchelmore, School of Education.