What do young children understand as pattern? As Merilyn Buchanan points out in her article Pattern Power, when asked "What is pattern?", young children often give examples of visual patterns on wallpaper, wrapping paper, clothes etc. The key element tends to be the idea of a repeat. In analysing whether there is a pattern or not, learners look for similarities and differences, and this is true when considering number pattern too.
Ring a Ring of Numbers
Why do this problem? This problem provides a context in which children can recognise odd and even numbers, and begin to think about their properties. It also offers practice in addition and subtraction. Possible approach It would be good to have the interactivity on the interactive whiteboard, or projected onto a screen. Begin by placing any four numbers in the ring and asking questions about them, for example:
This problem has the capacity to interest young and old alike. It offers an element of surprise which makes learners curious to investigate further and want to explain. I have used it with a wide range of attainment levels, and new things keep on being found out. It is a fantastic context in which to look for patterns, explain why these patterns occur, and as a result, to gain a deeper understanding of our number system. It offers opportunities to work together by sharing results and making decisions as to which consecutive numbers to look at next.