A recent article from the Early Years explores the research about the importance of teaching patterns to preschoolers. Repeating patterns such as circle/circle/square/circle/circle/square help children understand the idea of structure and the rules governing the pattern. This gears their brain to start looking for rules and patterns which is helpful throughout their math learning.
One study the article highlighted was in Australia. They provided preschoolers with an intervention focused on sophisticated patterning. They found that a year later, these same kids entered kindergarten with better numeracy knowledge than their peers who had not participated in the intervention.
So what is sophisticated patterning?
It’s this idea of getting kids to make use of and look for structure. You are trying to think about “What’s the rule? What’s going on here? What’s happening?” Looking for rules and regularities and figuring out things that are happening—that’s what most of math is.
In preschool we provide models of simple patterns such as triangle/square/triangle/square/ and then have them either show what shape is next in the pattern or repeat the pattern with the same shapes. Then the patterns get more complicated using longer patterns with three variables as they progress. Sophisticated patterning has them use that same pattern model but with new variables. Having them repeat the pattern with different variables, pushes them to think about rules and regulations which is a key part of their math foundation.
The article concludes with encouraging parents to do sophisticated patterning at home. Make a pattern with one set of materials and ask kids to make the same kind of pattern, but using new materials so that they have to really be thinking about that rule. Families can use common household items to do this like the picture below.