Reggio-inspired mathematics: patterning kit

Posted on: October 30th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Over the summer we applied for a grant from the Vancouver Reggio Consortium Society to extend our professional Reggio-Inspired Mathematics inquiry project from last year to reach more teachers. Money from the grant has gone to build “kits” that will be used in many kindergarten and primary classrooms this year. Experiences with the materials in classrooms will be documented and added to our draft resource.

The first of the four kits to be ready and to go out to a classroom is the patterning kit. It looks like this when it is all packed up….


and then like this when displayed as an invitation or provocation.


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The first class to use this kit is Marissa Kishi and her kindergarten students at Whiteside. We found a space to set up the materials in the classroom and the children were very curious!


We gathered the students on the carpet area and after introducing myself, I let them know that their teacher had told me they had been learning about patterns. In the spirit of guided inquiry, I asked, “What is a pattern?” The students were able to provide many examples of patterns. Hands shot up and as I repeated my question, “What is a pattern?” students responded with:

“Yellow, blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue”


“Green, yellow, green, yellow, green yellow”


“Blue, red, blue, red, blue red”

Some students used their hands to gesture and point as they described their patterns. Some students seemed to be “seeing” the pattern in their minds as they described them.

Marissa and I noted that all the examples involved colour and were AB repeating patterns. I asked the students to think of my question again and rephrased it, “What makes a pattern a pattern?” “What is it that’s special about it?”

With this prompting, one student explained that a pattern was something that repeats over and over. Repeating patterns are the type of patterns that are specified in the Kindergarten and Grade 1 math curriculum and although there are many types of patterns, I was happy we had moved towards a definition that made sense to these students.

We shared the different materials and spread them out on the tables in the classroom and asked the children “What different patterns can you make?” and asked them to keep thinking about “What is a pattern?”


With pirate voices, a group of girls enjoyed creating patterns with buttons they discovered in a treasure chest. “red, black, red, black, red, black”


Some hardware intrigued a small group of boys. Some students laid out the pieces in patterns while others tinkered away with them, figuring out how they worked together and then created patterns. Because the materials were all the same colour, the students needed to think about how to create and describe patterns in a different way. The pattern above was described as “up, down, up, down, up down”. In the photo below, the little guy I talked to pointed out all his patterns which were really little “stems” or “excerpts” of patterns that he embedded in one big continuous string of nuts and bolts and such. We had a great conversation but when I pressed him a bit on isolating the patterns and showing me which parts repeated, he didn’t want to go there. He was happy to continue investigating and laying out the materials.

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In the photo above, a student found a great solution for some coloured wooden beads that kept rolling away!

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In Kindergarten, students need to demonstrate their understanding of patterns with two or three elements. Since many of these kindergarten students seemed “stuck” on working with just two colours (and often in AB patterns), by providing them with three colours to work to with, we hoped they might branch out a little with their patterning and they did!


I am looking forward to visiting this class again mid-November and seeing and hearing about what the students have uncovered as the investigate patterns.


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