The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Finding Patterns

We are fortunate to have a large supply of iPads available in our building. I have four iPads and five Nook tablets in my room, but the Nooks do not have cameras on them, which only becomes an issue when I want my students to do something with pictures. This was the case today but, luckily, our first grade partner class was going to lunch when I wanted my students to use tablets, so we were able to increase our tablet count from four to nine. (It would have been ten but one of the tablets needed to be charged.)

The goal with the tablets was simple: go outside and find examples of patterns. They could be in nature or man-made. The students were able to work in groups of two or three and take pictures all around the school property. After twenty minutes we came in and talked about what we had seen. Then I showed the students numeric patterns and I asked them to try to figure out the rule.

I started with a simple one:

1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0

They easily identified the AB pattern, so I gave them another one:

2 4 6 8 10

Again, they quickly saw that the pattern was counting by twos. Then I gave a more challenging pattern:

1 4 9 16

It took a few minutes longer, but someone suggested the next number was 25, then 36, and then they recognised the pattern as square numbers. One student noticed that the numbers increased by sequential odd numbers, especially if you started the sequence with 0: 0+1=1, 1+3=4, 4+5=9, 9+7=16, 16+9=25, and so on. I thought that was a pretty cool observation. Then I gave them this one:

1 1 2 3 5 8 13

The students guessed several numbers, mostly random, then someone shouted out, “Oh! I know! It is 21!” Then I asked if anyone could name the next number and another student offered 34. A few recognised the pattern as adding the previous two numbers together. I explained that this is known as the Fibonacci sequence. The last pattern of the day was this:

2 3 5 7 11 13 17

After several minutes, a few students started offering other numbers, such as 19, 23, and 29. Then someone explained that they were all prime numbers.

It was a really fun way to wrap up an exploration of patterns in math and in the real world! And if you want to see the photos they took today, just visit the album I made here!

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