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Merry Math Patterns

Fingerplays and active songs such as Patty Cake and Open Them, Shut Them introduce children to simple song patterns. Continue to build their pattern awareness with related art activities.

  • Grade 1
    Grade 2
    Grade 3
  • 30 Minutes or Less
  • Directions

    1. Conduct a read aloud with students. Encourage them to enjoy the bright illustrations in books such as Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris. Look through the book several times to find patterns on the fish, in the water, and around the borders of the pages. Where have they seen these patterns before? Ask students to identify the types of shapes and patterns observed. Then provide an opportunity for students to re-creating and/or interpret patterns.
    2. Body patterns: Sit students in a circle on the floor. Ask them to think of patterns to make with their bodies. Suggest they try arranging themselves around the circle in patterns such as sit, sitting, standing or kneeling, standing, standing. Once a pattern has been decided upon, use a cell phone or school camera to take a photograph of the student pattern to memorialize it. Upload the photograph onto a classroom computer for student viewing. Ask students to interpret what they observe and re-create it using Crayola Washable Markers or Erasable Colored Pencils. Post student artwork on a classroom bulletin board and allow time for students to discuss similarities and differences in illustrations. What types of math patterns are observed?
    3. Sound patterns: Ask students to think of sounds that can be mase such as tongue clicks, handclaps, finger snaps, or feet stamps. List the sounds on a white board with Crayola Dry-Erase Markers or Dry Erase Crayons. Put them together to make body sound patterns, such as click, stamp, stamp, clap. Organize students in small groups. Each group will select a collection of sounds to make, thus creating a unique pattern. Groups write down their selection of sounds and practice their pattern. With adult assistance, if needed, students use Audacity or another audiotaping program to memorialize their performance. Allow time for classmates to listen to audio files and determine the pattern of sounds included.
    4. Color patterns: Working in pairs, students make a pattern using two colors on a dry erase board. Erase. Make a pattern with three colors. Try one with four colors. Ask team members to discuss the similarities and differences in the 2-3-4 color patterns.
    5. Shape patterns: Pose questions to students such as: How can you make squares, triangles, diamonds, or ovals into patterns? What about stars, hearts, and circles? Start with two shapes. Erase. Try three shapes. See how many shapes you can use in one pattern!
    6. Alphabet patterns: Ask students sto use any two letters, perhaps their initials, to write a pattern on dry-erase boards. Try another pattern with one or two more letters. Choose favorite letter pattern. Erase all the others. Write the letter pattern at the top of the dry-erase board. In the middle, make the same pattern using colors. Now use shapes to make the same pattern at the bottom of the board. Ask students to discuss their reactions with a partner.
    7. Close out the pattern seeking activities with a class discussion of what learning has occurred regarding patterns in mathematics and the real world. Why do people say, "Math is everywhere?"
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grade level text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    LA: Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.

    MATH: Reason with shapes and their attributes.

    MATH: Solve problems involving the four operations, and identify and explain patterns in arithmetic.

    MATH: Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Pattern (Math Counts) by Henry Pluckrose; Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris; A-B-A-B-A A Book of Pattern Play (Math Is Categorical) by Brian P. Cleary; Growing Patterns by Sarah C. Campbell

    Encourage students, working in small groups, to seek out and record patterns found in their school building, daily life, etc. Can they find patterns on clothing, walls, floors? Student groups discuss the cycle of day and night, phases o the moon, etc. Compare patterns found with other student groups.

    The teacher, or facilitator in a small group, provides the student group with a pattern, such as 2, 5, 8, 11, …, and asks the group to brainstorm what the factor is that promotes the sequence. Once discovered, ask students to create a drawing that illustrates the next term in the sequence (ex: 14 circles would illustrate the next term in the sequence above).

    Organize a Pattern Fun Day for the class. Ask students for activity suggestions. Some might include students standing in patterns (sneakers, sneakers, shoes); stringing beads in patterns or creating paper chains in color patterns; creating, then eating, healthy food patterns; moving to dance patterns created by students, etc. Invite parents to participate in the pattern making!

    Working in small groups, one student member will create a numerical pattern, such as 1, 2, 4, 8, … Ask other members to he group to identify the pattern (term + term or 1+1=2) and provide the next three terms in the sequence (. …16, 32, 64…).


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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