Preschoolers typically get a lot of exposure to patterning. In my preschool, we make patterns when doing calendar time, we practice patterns on our math concept board, and we play pattern games when transitioning from one activity to the next. In my home, William and Corinne are constantly making patterns with their toys, or saying patterns aloud. But…all of this typically comes in a similar format, and seldom really challenges my more skilled preschoolers, and William can give examples of an AB or ABB, or ABC, or ABAC, or…you get the point. He can do it in his sleep. This is the basis for this activity, What Comes Next?.
I wanted to create a hands on patterning activity that would challenge my students to think ahead to anticipate what might come several steps down the road. It has turned out to be excellent mental math practice. Let me walk you through how I use this activity in preschool.
Start by printing off a copy of the template, Patterns_What Comes Next. Have available some sort of math counters, such as unifix cubes or counting chips. Since I was focusing on an AB pattern to introduce this activity, I made sure to have plenty of only two colors. You will need to use the same colors for each pattern line.
Invite your student or child to come and make an AB pattern that is five counters long. This allows for the student to see the pattern repeat itself at least once. Have him repeat the same pattern on each of the pattern grids on the template.
Now, challenge your student or child to use mental math, (I like to say “think inside your head”) to figure out what color counter would be where the question mark is on the line. If your child looks at you like you’re speaking another language, model for him.Me: Can you read the pattern to me? Student: Green, orange, green, orange, green. Me: Good. (Pointing to the first line). Can you tell me what comes next? Student: Orange.
Pretty simple for the first line. But the fourth line isn’t as easy, and students will at first struggle with figuring out the pattern when they cannot build onto it anymore.Me: Can you read the pattern to me? Student: Green, orange, green, orange, green. Me: Good. (Pointing to the fourth line). Can you tell me what comes here, where the question mark is? I want you to continue the pattern in your head.
We begin again with reading the pattern of counters. Only this time, I might point to the blank boxes as though the pattern continues. (If the student is really struggling, I’ll mouth the pattern as I point to the blank boxes). The student continues the pattern in their head.Me: What comes here? Student: Green.
As you can see in the photograph, the pattern grids are actually cut into strips, but the question marks are in order from least to farthest distance from the actual pattern. With the grids cut into strips, this allows you to give an extra challenge to your child or students by mixing them up. Some students will be able to recognize the pattern within the set-up.