Patterns seem like a simple concept. And while patterns may seem unimportant, they are actually an essential part of learning math. Children who struggle with patterns tend to struggle in many different math areas. So how are patterns used in math, and how can you practice them with your children?
Children use skip counting quite a bit in math. (Skip counting is counting by different numbers.) Telling time involves counting by 5’s, and children learn to recognize even and odd numbers by counting by 2’s. But all skip counting is simply just patterns repeated.
All four simple math operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – use patterns to repeat the same processes over and over again. For example, long division uses the same pattern for each step. You divide, multiply, subtract, and bring down. If a child can’t recognize and then follow this pattern, they will not be able to complete a long division problem correctly.
Young children love working with patterns. They can be worked into almost anything a child does. The best way to practice patterns is to start a pattern with whatever your child is playing with (cars, beads, legos, anything really). Then have your child continue the pattern with the toys. Start with simple patterns with only two colors or types of objects like red, blue, red, blue, red. Once your child has mastered simple patterns, move on to harder patterns such as red, blue, yellow, red, blue, yellow or red, red, blue, yellow, blue, red, red, blue, yellow, blue. You can also point out patterns that you see in the world around you. Encourage your child to find patterns as well no matter how short or simple the patterns are.
Mastering the ability to recognize and repeat patterns will help your child in many ways in math. So have some fun with patterns. Your child will think you are just playing with him, and you will know that you are helping him increase his math skills!
How do you practice patterns with your child?