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Making a Record of Pattern Cores

Carol Midgett
Location: unknown

This lesson focuses on elements that constitute a pattern core or unit. Identifying the core element or unit that is repeated is a necessary early concept that students must understand to recognize and create repeating patterns.

To assess prior knowledge, place the students in pairs and give each student two objects that could constitute the core of a pattern, such as one blue and one red cube, one triangle and one trapezoid, or one big button and one small button.

Give the students copies of the Complete the Pattern Activity Sheet, and ask them to begin a pattern with the objects you supplied.

pdficonComplete the Pattern Activity Sheet

Have the students draw the next four shapes needed to make two more repeats of the pattern core.

Review the students' work samples to determine which students understand the concept of creating and recording repeating patterns and which do not.

Save the students' work to measure progress, determine grouping strategies, or share with the students as feedback.

To begin the lesson, gather the students in a circle around a table or on the floor. Use the same materials that the students will use in the lesson to model how to create a repeating pattern.

Begin with simple AB patterns and progress to patterns with several repeats within the pattern unit, such as AAB, 112233 (AABBCC), and blue, red, red, yellow (ABBC).

Ask the students to describe what comes next as you create a pattern. The pattern core should be repeated several times while you ask Key Questions 5 and 6 to determine whether the students understand the procedures for creating simple patterns.

To help the students understand the pattern core, have them identify the elements that are part of each repeat of the pattern, such as AAB is the core of the pattern AAB, AAB, AAB. Discuss with the students why it is important to know the pattern core. (It is the element that is repeated to make a pattern.)

1595  image 3.1

Demonstrate how to create a repeating pattern using the applet, Creating, Describing, and Analyzing Patterns.

appiconCreating, Describing, and Analyzing Patterns

Engage students in identifying the pattern core.

MakingARecordOfPatternCores IMAGE PatternCore

Have students work in pairs to create patterns using the applet.

If you have only one computer in the classroom, the other students might work with concrete materials, such as Grid Paper and crayons or Grid Paper and colored cubes, to create patterns.

Give students copies of the Grid Paper, and ask them to draw a picture of their favorite pattern and label it with numbers, both cardinal and ordinal.

When they are finished, ask them to tell their partner how they made their pattern.

Possible answers:

  • "I used four red cubes and five blue cubes."
  • "I used a one, two pattern."
  • "I used an AB pattern."
  • "The odd number cubes in my pattern are red."

This exercise helps demonstrate understanding and develops meaningful use of the vocabulary of patterns.

1595 image 3.3

Pose questions that focus the students' attention on the color of a particular numbered block. For example:

  • What color is the fifth block?
  • What would be the color of the tenth block?
  • What would be the color of the twelfth block?

This helps the students begin to "see" beyond the pattern as it is pictured and focus on the pattern unit and the relationship among the blocks within and among units.

Reconvene as a whole class to discuss what the students did and what they learned about patterns from the activity.

It is important for the students to model the "new" ideas that they share so that the other students might learn from them. This enables them to compare patterns they created and to recognize similarities and differences.


Developing fluency and flexibility in using patterns is essential. Because knowledge of patterns is fundamental to mathematics, it is important for the students to experience additional activities that teach the same concepts before moving on. Documenting the particular needs of the students is helpful in planning for teaching, assisting the students with extra help, and reporting progress to the students, parents, other teachers, and administrators. The Class Notes Teacher Resource Sheet provides a format for recording your observations.

Questions for Students 

  1. What is the difference between the patterns we made in the previous lesson and those we made today?
  2. What are different ways to describe your pattern? (Using shapes, colors, size, numbers, or letters)
  3. What did you think about before you created your pattern?
  4. Describe the pattern core of your pattern.
  5. How would you create the same pattern using different objects or materials?
  6. How does identifying the pattern unit help you know how to extend a pattern?

Teacher Reflection 

  • What remediation activities do the students need at this time?
  • How can I group the students to maximize learning for all the students?
  • Why is it important for me to model patterns for the students?
  • How does having the students explain how they are creating patterns as well as interpreting patterns that others have created contribute to their knowledge of patterns?
  • Why is it important for the students to develop strategies for creating and identifying patterns? How does this relate to other problem-solving activities?
  • Would it be helpful to have a volunteer to work with struggling or proficient students?
  • In what ways are these discussions helpful in building mathematical vocabulary? What strategies would help the students develop a genuine understanding of the vocabulary?

Finding Properties for Sorting

Students sort objects and observe the properties others use for sorting. This activity helps students understand and connect many mathematical ideas. By labeling their sorts, students connect number with sets of objects that compose the pattern.

What’s My Rule for Sorting?

Students build on prior knowledge of sorting and classifying when they recognize sorts and name rules for sorting. They identify common properties in the classroom environment and make, explain, and defend conjectures to extend their knowledge.

Many Ways to Create Patterns

This lesson accommodates multiple learning styles by having students create patterns using different forms. Students use knowledge and skills in new situations to develop a solid understanding of the process for creating patterns, recognizing pattern sequences, and representing patterns in different ways.

Connecting Numbers and Patterns

This lesson accommodates multiple learning styles by having students create patterns using different forms. Students use knowledge and skills in new situations to develop a solid understanding of the process for creating patterns, recognizing pattern sequences, and representing patterns in different ways, and connecting numbers with patterns.

Sing and Show Patterns

This lesson accommodates multiple learning styles by engaging students in creating patterns with movement and translating the patterns into other forms.

Calculating Patterns

Students use an Internet-based calculator that is linked with an interactive hundred chart to create, extend, and record numerical patterns in different ways. By connecting the two representations, students observe the numerical patterns as they are created.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

This lesson assesses students' understanding of patterns. It measures their ability to create, extend, and interpret patterns in multiple ways.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify repeating patterns
  • Recognize and create core elements of repeating patterns
  • Record repeating patterns