# Playing with Patterns

Pattern is an area of maths that lends itself to all kinds of fun and engaging activities, especially in the Early Years. I was asked to think of some experiences which I could provide to a p1 class which would help to develop their understanding of pattern,  including visual, auditory, and physical pattern.

I decided on one overall experience which would encompass various different activities on the theme of pattern. That experience happens to be one of my all time favourites: going on a nature walk! In my opinion there is no learning that can’t take place in the great outdoors.

Visual Patterns

During the nature walk, I would have children select items which they could arrange into a pattern (we would obviously need to look at some examples of visual patterns before this). The children would have the freedom to decide on the items that they choose, thinking about size, shape, and/or colour.

I would encourage them to talk about their pattern and make connections to the ones that we had seen before. This activity could include all sorts of mathematical language, such as positional language, the language of sequence, size, and shape. I could also extend the learning by having the children to attempt to imitate a pattern and predict what might be coming next.

Physical Patterns

The next activity which I would include on my walk, is a follow-the-leader style action game. The children would need to work in groups for this activity, rather than walking in one long line. In this game, the first child performs an action which all children must copy. Then the next child performs a new action, so all children must perform action 1 and 2 (and keep repeating them over and over). This continues until a few children have added a new action, creating a pattern of movements.

The mathematical language which would be involved in this activity could be “1st, 2nd, 3rd”. It could also be used when describing an action, for example “BIG swings of your arms” or “Tiny taps of your toes”. As an extension we would look (and have a go at) at some child-friendly dance routines (perhaps to pop music or something which engages the children’s interest) and notice any repetitions and patterns.

Auditory Patterns

While walking, I would lead the children in a fun chant or song.

An example of this is a chant that we used when I was a member of the Girl Guides. It goes like this:

Everywhere we go! (Everywhere we go)
Who we are (who we are)
Where we come from (where we come from)
So we tell them (So we tell them)
We’re from …name your school/setting… (we’re from…)
And if they cannot hear us (And if they cannot hear us)
We shout a little louder (we shout a little louder)

Repeat from beginning

Taken from www.ultimatecampresource.com/

This is a fun example of a pattern as it uses repetition and rhythm. We could continue by looking at other songs and noticing if there are any patterns involved (which there probably will be, for example verse, chorus, verse, chorus…).

There are, of course, many many more opportunities for learning associated with pattern which I could involve in my nature walk. This activity has helped me to think about some of the ways that I can bring mathematical learning into activities which I would perhaps not associate directly with maths.

# We’re going on a maths hunt

The picture book that I have chosen to use for this task is ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt‘ by Michael Rosen. I chose this book because it’s one of my favourites, and one which (in my experience) never fails to capture children’s imagination.

I have used this story to explore language, and for various dramatic and creative play experiences, but I have never before taken a particular focus on the mathematical element. That being said, it is obvious that there is plenty of mathematical language and concepts throughout. Here are some of the ones that I spotted:

• language of measurement and size: “we’re going to catch a BIG one” and “long, wavy grass”
• positional language – over/ under/ through
• counting – “one shiny, wet nose, 2 big furry ears…”
• rhythm and repetition

If I were to use this story with my class, there are various activities which I may use to focus in on some of these concepts. I would always begin by reading the story with my class. I love the actions which Michael Rosen uses in his reading and would use the same, or my own variation of these to engage the children.

I have chosen 2 mathematical concepts to explore further: measurement and counting.

Measurement

To continue with the concept of measurement and size, I would encourage the children to explore tape-measures, rulers, measuring sticks and even non conventional measurement resources like lego blocks. I would then provide opportunities for the children to begin to sort items that they had measured into groups of big/ medium/ small etc. I would model and encourage the different words and language which can be used to describe these measurements: large, tiny, huge, little…

Another fun activity could be to have the children arrange themselves in a long line from biggest to smallest or visa versa. This activity could be done as a transition (for example when lining up for lunch) and would help to secure the children’s understanding.

Counting

One way to continue learning about counting and labelling, in the way that the story does, could be to use the same method to describe something else. I would provide playdough with a variety of materials such as googly eyes, straws, sequins, string, etc and allow the children to create their own creature. I would encourage them to make their creature as weird and wacky as they liked, because when they are finished I would ask them to describe it to their friend. This activity could be linked to learning about description, or could simply be about how many eyes/ ears/ noses etc that their creature has.

# Nursery Rhymes and Maths

During our first maths input, I was reminded of the importance of nursery rhymes and songs in children’s development. Not only do these songs include language skills such as rhyme or alliteration, but they also include many mathematical elements.

An example of this is the nursery rhyme: 5 currant buns.

5 currant buns in a baker’s shop,

Round and fat with a cherry on the top,

along came <insert name> with a penny one day,

They bought a currant bun and they took it right away,

Yum yum! Yum yum!

As you can see (excuse the rather awkward video…) – the actions help the cement the meaning and add understanding to some of the mathematical words as well (such as ’round’ and ‘on the top’).

This song involves the various skills of counting back (5, 4, 3, 2, 1),

 I have explored numbers, understanding that they represent quantities, and I can use them to count, create sequences and describe order. MNU 0-02a

This can be extended to also include simple subtraction (we had 5 currant buns, one has been taken away. How many are left?)

 I use practical materials and can ‘count on and back’ to help me to understand addition and subtraction, recording my ideas and solutions in different ways. MNU 0-03a

In describing the buns, the language of shape is used (round)

 I enjoy investigating objects and shapes and can sort, describe and be creative with them. MTH 0-16a

as well as positional language (on the top).

 In movement, games, and using technology I can use simple directions and describe positions. MTH 0-17a

I have heard variations on the song, with the words “big and round” in place of “round and fat”. The explanation of this was because “fat” is an offensive word, which I find ludicrous (a topic for a later blog perhaps), however the new lyrics would include a further mathematical word (big).

Finally, there is the introduction of money and how it is exchanged for goods.

 I am developing my awareness of how money is used and can recognise and use a range of coins. MNU 0-09a

It’s clear that this song, as with many nursery rhymes, is packed full of maths. As a teacher, I hope to be able to use songs and rhymes to not only introduce concepts in a non-frightening way, but also to practice and engage with some of the more tricky outcomes.

I have already experimented with doing this while working in nurseries. While covering a wide topic area of ‘toys’, I changed the lyrics of this song to be about toys in a toy shop. Rather than each toy costing a penny, as in the traditional song, we gave each person a price tag (5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1). When a child was chosen to select the toy which they would like to buy, they were also required to choose the correct coin from the pot. I differentiated by having some price tags with a picture of the coin on them so that the child could match the shape and look of the coin, and some price tags simply having the price written e.g. 20p.

# I had to make a bad science joke because all the good ones Argon

What is science all about? That’s a big question! Science is all around us and allows us to gain a better understanding of our world. This understanding involves questioning our assumptions and ‘everyday’ explanations, while modifying our ideas based on scientific investigation.

And that brings me to the topic of today’s post – investigation! During our input, we were encouraged to carry out our own mini investigation, using structured support materials (investigation frames) to aid us in our thinking and recording.

The frames asked questions to ensure that we considers our variables and control methods. I felt that they also encouraged us to work as a group – talking about what should be added to each sheet.

My group agreed that the frames were helpful as they organized our thoughts in the basic form of a ‘proper’ scientific report. Report writing can be a tricky skill, but it is one which students will need as they progress through their education.

I can see how the scientific investigation frames could be used in my own classroom, using scaffolding to support the children. First, to introduce the process of recording and reporting to my pupils, I would model the process with the whole class, allowing them to suggest the ideas for the sheets, conduct their experiments in groups, and then share the results together. I hope that this would build the children’s confidence and allow them to begin to grasp the key elements of a scientific investigation.

I would then use the frames in an ‘I do- you do’ fashion where I continue to model the process (perhaps with a generic example) but complete the sheets one by one, following each with a chance for the children to discuss and complete their own sheets.

Finally I would provide opportunities for the children to use the investigation frames with limited instruction from myself.

When thinking about my own teaching of science, I found it interesting to learn about the Constructivist approach.  This approach involves identifying currently held ideas, discovering any misconceptions, challenging these, and finally reformulating our thinking. Now, I understand that on the face of it, this seems a little dry, but stay with me because it also has the possibility to be linked with stimulating and engaging lessons! As with so much learning, the interest comes as a teacher uses an idea or misconception which is relevant to the children (for example questioning something that happens in a movie, or using a practical experiment/ demonstration, or going on an outing…)

Science is a critical part of the primary classroom and curriculum for excellence. Despite this, PISA scores find the UK well below those top performing countries (OECD, 2015). It is therefore essential that future (and current) teachers aim to improve the delivery of science lessons to pupils – providing them with the skills and knowledge in a meaningful way.

Reference

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf