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Making a staircase

The following activity can be used to introduce the idea of a growing pattern. At the same time, it can reinforce students’ understanding of a rectangular grid.

Ask students to make pairs of interlocking cubes of the same colour, and then assemble them into this 'staircase' pattern.

Adjacent columns of coloured cubes two, four, six, eight and ten cubes high, standing on a common base line.

A staircase pattern.

Students should then draw the staircase, firstly from the model and then from memory. Students' drawings will show their understanding of the growth pattern (2, 4, 6, 8, 10). For example, some students may not place the various columns of their staircase on a common baseline.

Link the staircase to ideas of multiplication (e.g. 4 groups of 2 make 8).

You can extend this activity by asking students to continue the staircase by making it come down again in the same pattern (with columns of 8, 6, 4 and 2 cubes). The continuation reveals further patterns (including symmetry).

It is also valuable to have students draw the staircase on large-scale grid paper (with 1 cm squares).

Curriculum links

Year 3: Identify symmetry in the environment

Year 1: Develop confidence with number sequences to and from 100 by ones from any starting point. Skip count by twos, fives and tens starting from zero

Year 2: Recognise and represent multiplication as repeated addition, groups and arrays

Year 3: Investigate the conditions required for a number to be odd or even and identify odd and even numbers

Year 3: Recall multiplication facts of two, three, five and ten and related division facts