The capacity to pattern – to establish a pattern core, to repeat and name it – is an essential skill in mathematics learning. Students who can pattern can predict what comes next with confidence. They know that there is order – to the manipulatives they use, to the days of the week, to the sequences of their days. The capacity to pattern is a necessary pre-requisite for success in algebra – to be able to predict ‘down the line’ is the foundation of algebraic thinking. Students should be able to represent it in language and actions. Students who are competent with patterning will be able to identify and correct an error in an existing pattern. Students should be able to extend a pattern off of both ends (beyond both the start and the end) and to represent it in language and actions.
Patterning with colour or another physical attribute is the precursor to skip counting. When students build patterns with a pattern core of 2 elements, the number of objects in their pattern increases by 2 each time. To find the total number, then students can skip count by 2’s. In this way they follow a new pattern: skip a number, say a number, or skip 1, say 2, skip 3, say 4 etc. Skip counting requires sets of objects to be counted. Success with skip counting depends on being able to subitize, and see groups at a glance.