I know what you are thinking, but don’t panic. Recognizing, describing, and expanding patterns are crucial for developing math skills, so I always start the school with patterns (K-4). In the younger grades, I show them patterns and we describe them. In the upper elementary grades, they create patterns, and the other students try to guess them. Here is a quick and fun activity that incorporates patterns, algebraic thinking and functions for all elementary grades.

I divide the students into groups of about 3-4, each at their own area with the appropriate manipulatives so they can build the design they will see. Using a slide show, I display one design slide at a time in front of the class. I also have a student come up to the board and set up a t-chart so we can see the patterns. The table groups should be building the designs as they are displayed.

Here is the first slide:

After each slide, the student fills out the t-chart, and we discuss what the pattern could be.

As I show a slide at a time, the table groups are building, helping to fill out the T-chart, and discussing the patterns. Then I display the next slide.

Each table group then builds what they think the next design will look like as well as what the next entries would be on the t-chart.

They love seeing the pattern developed and as well as seeing the connection between the numbers and the designs

For my younger grades, we usually do one and then have a discussion as a warm-up. Or in my upper classes, we do all of them for a complete math lesson for the day. For your advanced students, you can ask them next level questions, like “What would the 10th design look like?” and “How many shapes it would take?” etc. You can also have them graph the T-chart on a coordinate graph. The design number would be the X coordinate and the # of shapes would be the Y coordinate (1, 1), (2, 3), and (3, 5). Powerful with so much algebraic thinking!

If you want to save some time, I have the slide show already created for you! It’s fully editable in PowerPoint if you would like to add your designs.