Real Life Examples of Math Patterns for Elementary Students

by Karen LoBello

Patterns are all around, and when you encourage your child to recognize patterns, you are strengthening her math skills. Elementary students who can identify patterns have an easier time solving problems and making mathematical connections. Raise your child’s awareness of the patterns she encounters in everyday situations.


Tessellations are geometric patterns that repeat with no overlaps or gaps. Shapes such as triangles, squares and hexagons can tessellate. Point out the repeating patterns of tessellations in the fabrics of quilts and clothing and have your child create his own patterns on paper. You can point out tessellating patterns on many items, from soccer balls and checkerboards to floor and ceiling tiles and brick walls.


When a child keeps a beat, claps or stomps her feet, she is patterning. When she claps twice and stomps three times, for example, you can teach her to re-create that pattern on paper with letters, AA BBB. Rhythmic movements, such as skipping and dancing are based on mathematical patterns. You can heighten your child’s awareness of recognizing and then extending patterns by asking, "What comes next?"


A figure that can be folded to create identical parts has a symmetrical pattern. The fold line is the line of symmetry and can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. You can point out the symmetrical patterns your child comes across, such as in nature and architecture. Butterflies have bilateral symmetry, for example, and you can encourage your child to create a butterfly using a folded paper. When you take a walk, you can pick up leaves and fold them to show symmetrical patterns. Children can also see that people are typically symmetrical, with matching eyes, arms and legs.


There are plenty of patterns for elementary students to observe in literature. Words, phrases or sentences are repeated, such as Goldilocks finding objects that are consistently “too large,” “too small” or “just right.” You can help your child look for predictable rhyme and rhythm patterns in books and poetry.


Your child can recognize patterns in weather. Temperature, precipitation and wind patterns change in sequence throughout the seasons. You can point out the patterns on weather graphs on TV and the computer and then have your child make predictions about the local forecast based on the weather patterns that have developed during the previous weeks.

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