thinking about mathematical inquiry in grades 2&3

Posted on: January 14th, 2015 by jnovakowski 3 Comments

The Reggio-inspired patterning kit arrived in Michelle Hikida’s grades 2 & 3 class at Diefenbaker Elementary during the first week of January. Michelle is one of our district’s math mentor teachers and she and I were curious about how the materials might be used with the grades 2 & 3 students to enhance and extend their thinking about patterns. We also were wondering what inquiry questions might emerge during students’ investigations with the materials.

We began with a short whole-class discussion around the question, “What is a pattern?” with students sharing some examples and I showed them the materials from the kit. We asked them to continue to investigate the question as they explored the materials.



“1234, 4321, back and forth.”


Asking students to explain their patterns often reveals their mathematical understanding of this concept and gives you information about where to go next with instruction.

“It’s a pattern that gets smaller and smaller and then it goes over again because with a pattern you have to repeat.”


This student creating a decreasing pattern and to solve the problem when she got down to 1 and maybe not being sure what to do at that point, she just started at 5 again. From this discussion, I would want to ask the students to think about: “Do all patterns repeat?” and “What happens to a decreasing pattern when you decrease to 1, 0, etc?”

As Michelle and I expected, questions began to emerge from the students as they worked with the materials and thought about patterns.

“Can you make a pattern with just one colour?”

“Can you make subtracting patterns?”

“I was wondering if I could do a 3D pattern?”

Michelle’s plan is to take each of the students’ questions and begin a lesson with one of them as a way to focus students investigations with the materials and to get to some of the big ideas in patterning through the students’ own inquiry questions. We took photographs of the students’ patterns as they explained them and Michelle thought she might also use these as provocations for the students’ investigations.


“I have 10 different patterns!”



“Most of these are AB patterns.”


IMG_7216  IMG_7223 

Noticeable differences between the Kindergarten classes that have used these materials and the grades 2&3 students is that the older students are able to synthesize and generalize – seeing the big mathematical ideas in what they are doing as well as that the older students clearly just needed more materials than were in the kit. We had to pull out tubs of math materials from Michelle’s class to satisfy the need for quantity. The students’ patterns were bigger, longer, involved larger quantities of materials and I will be digging into my tubs at home to share some new materials with the students. I don’t see why these materials could also not be used in grades 4&5 classes to explore number and geometric pattern and part of this inquiry process is thinking about how the materials will be used and what the materials can offer for different mathematical concepts and grade levels.


3 Responses

  1. Joanna says:

    always love to read your posts, see the photos and hear the all the student questioning!

  2. […] Back in January, Michelle Hikida and I introduced the Reggio-inspired patterning kit to her grades 2 & 3 class at Diefenbaker and we considered the affordances of different materials to support mathematical thinking and inspire inquiry. A blog post about this experience can be found HERE. […]