What are Patterns?

Look around, there are patterns all around us.1 Finding and comprehending patterns gives us tremendous power. We may use patterns to anticipate the future, discover new things, and gain a greater understanding of the world around us. Playing with patterns is, above all, very enjoyable.

Young children, even babies, are exposed to a plethora of predictable patterns in their environments and in themselves. A child’s comprehension of patterns will grow spontaneously when they dance to the beat of a song or follow along with a clapping sequence. Children will begin to recognize and create patterns in their play. Their development of pattern making begins when they arrange toys in a line that follows some kind of pattern. The pattern may appear to be incorrect at first, but with some intervention, you will be able to recognize the pattern your child is attempting to construct, as well as the reasoning and thought behind their actions.2

How are Patterns Related to Math Learning?

Math abilities throughout preschool and kindergarten establish a foundation for later study of more challenging math ideas, and patterning is one of them. It is a fundamental math ability that underpins a lot of math ideas and  is required for comprehension and proficiency in times tables, addition, and skip counting. Also, it is important to note that identifying and developing patterns in preschool is only the beginning of mastering life-long mathematical skills, as it is an essential component of any mathematical program.3

What are Math Patterns and Why are They Important?

Mathematical patterns are much more than a set of repeating forms. A pattern is a collection of numbers, forms, or objects that adhere to a set of rules in order to remain the same or change over time. Numeracy skills are built on the foundation of patterns, and children may struggle to comprehend numbers if they lack a basic understanding of patterns.2

Patterns in math are more than just pretty designs; they follow predictable rules that allow us to anticipate what comes next. Math, according to mathematicians, is the study of patterns—patterns and structure in numbers, as well as patterns and structure in geometry.4 As children grow, they become more adept at noticing patterns and structure in the world around them, which is an important math habit.

Patterns are logically repeating configurations of things. For young children, the arrangement of colors, forms, motions, sounds, images, shapes, gestures, and numbers is an important notion that adds significantly to their early math comprehension. According to Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization focused on early childhood development and learning, “patterns help children learn to make predictions, to understand what comes next, to make logical connections, and to use reasoning skills.” 5

Understanding patterns helps a preschooler develop socially by teaching them how to follow daily routines, such as taking turns when playing or following school rules, such as raising your hand, waiting to be called on, and sharing your thoughts. 5

Introducing Math Patterns to Preschoolers

It’s never too early to start teaching your child about patterns. Patterns are one of the most important math skills for your future, and preschoolers can learn them early on.5

If your young child is drawn to music, forms, shapes, and colors, they have a natural predisposition for math. This math knowledge emerges from your child’s experiences, such as clapping along to rhymes or tapping to songs, etc.5

To acquire pre-math skills related to patterns, preschoolers must be exposed to concrete ideas. Listed here are some basic patterning ideas for preschool levels that you can try.

  • Patterns that alternate, including:

Shapes: circle-triangle-circle-triangle…

Colors: pink-blue-blue-pink-blue-blue…

Sounds: Do-re-me… Do-re-me…

  • Patterns that grow, such as the growing height of block buildings.
  • Patterns of numbers like skip counting, grouping by tens, and simple number tables, etc.
  • Patterns of music, such as ascending and descending melodies.
  • Patterns with spatial relations like symmetries and radial shapes.

It is important to remember that children should learn both static and dynamic patterns.6 Pattern skill teaching and learning also has several levels. Here is a developmental sequence for teaching preschoolers patterning skills: 

  1. Recognizing a pattern 
  2. Describing a pattern
  3. Copying a pattern
  4. Extending a pattern 
  5. Creating a pattern7

It is also important to remember that patience is a virtue, and mastering patterns can take months or even an entire school year for preschoolers.7 For this reason, it’s critical to give children plenty of patterning practice throughout the year. 

Visit BYJU’s FutureSchool blog to read more interesting articles like this.


  1. MAKING PATTERNS IN PRESCHOOL | you clever monkey. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.youclevermonkey.com/2015/07/patterns-in-preschool.html
  2. The importance of Patterns – written by Kate Flood – PYP Instructional Coach | News | Swiss International School Qatar. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.sisq.qa/news/2019-10-12/the-importance-of-patterns-written-by-kate-flood-pyp-instructional-coach
  3. Preschool Math: Exploring Patterns | Education.com. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.education.com/magazine/article/preschool-math-patterns/
  4. Patterns and Structure – Young Mathematicians. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://youngmathematicians.edc.org/math-topic/patterns-and-algebra/
  5. Cool ways to teach your preschooler patterns | Parenting. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/cool-ways-to-teach-your-preschooler-about-patterns/
  6. What Children Know and Need to Learn about Patterns and Algebraic Thinking | DREME TE. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://prek-math-te.stanford.edu/patterns-algebra/what-children-know-and-need-learn-about-patterns-and-algebraic-thinking
  7. Pattern Activities for Preschool Math. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.pre-kpages.com/patterns/