Common Core is here, politics aside, the foundations and guiding practices make sense to me, as a enthusiastic math teacher. The complete set of math practices is listed here. But the one I like to focus on at the beginning of my 2-3rd grade year is “Look for and make use of structure. Mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure.”
To me discerning patterns make for a strong foundation for future math learning, and patterns can be easily accessible for all ages and abilities. To kick off patterns for my 2-3rd grade class, I show a slide show of pattern pictures in the classroom, like a scavenger hunt. Here are some examples:
I then partner them and they take turns taking pictures around the school and then I show them and we all guess. Here are some of their pictures:
We move from these picture patterns, to having a pattern party. I set up a bucket of manipulatives (tiles, counters, money, etc) on each table (three – four kids at a table). Then I turn on the music and each person makes a pattern in front of them using the manipulatives.
Then I stop the music and they rotate and when I restart the music, they add onto the pattern in front of them. When everyone rotates and returns back to their original spot, they explain the pattern to each other and discuss them. It combines music, movement, hands-on activity, cooperation, and it’s just plain fun. It usually takes a couple of days at about 20 minutes a day, since each group was to move through all the manipulatives. On the last day, I will bring in snacks that they can make patterns from and then eat, like pretzels, gold fish crackers, marshmallows (that doesn’t look like it’s spelled right), cheese squares, etc.
It’s a great way to introduce patterns and I follow up with math centers, games, and other activities. Here is a link to check out my complete Pattern Party kit.