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Making border patterns

Making patterns around the border of a rectangle is a fun activity for young students, and it can teach them a lot about the unit of repeat.

Start by showing students this pattern, made from interlocking cubes.

A hollow square, with each side consisting of a line of green-yellow-green-yellow cubes.

A border pattern.

After discussing how the pattern is made, give each student, or pair of students, 12 cubes (6 in one colour and 6 in another) and ask them to make a similar border pattern.

Now discuss the numbers.

  • How many cubes are there altogether?
  • How many are there of each colour?

Break the border into identical 'chunks'.

  • How many pieces are there in each chunk?
  • How many chunks are there?

This activity can be extended by giving students different-sized borders or different sets of cubes to make the border from. For example, you might ask them to make the same-sized border with 12 cubes in 3 different colours.

For more advanced students, pose hypothetical questions such as, "Is it possible to make a repeating pattern in a 3 \(\times\) 4 border with a unit of repeat consisting of 3 cubes?"