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Tartans and nursery rhymes

A tartan is a textile design that comes from Scotland. Ask students if they can describe the pattern in this tartan.

A typical Scottish tartan, making squares and rectangles of various colours.

A Scottish tartan.
Source: Getty/Arthur S Aubry.

The tartan consists of a pattern of black, yellow and red horizontal rows and the same pattern of black, yellow and red vertical columns. The colour changes where the rows and columns intersect. Also, the rows and columns make squares and rectangles of various colours.

Find your own examples of Scottish tartans. What patterns do they have?


Here is a well-known nursery rhyme:

Music and lyrics of the nursery rhyme 'Three Blind Mice'.

Three Blind Mice.

One way of looking for patterns is to ask students these questions about the words.

  • Is there any grouping?
  • Is there any repetition?
  • Is there any repetition with variation?

What do you notice?

Now look at the notes (do not try to sing them). What patterns do you see now?

Now sing the song. Do you notice any further patterns?

When you have finished puzzling over these questions, look at A Pattern Analysis of 'Three Blind Mice'.

Then repeat the exercise with other children's songs, such as 'Frère Jacques' or 'Hot Cross Buns'.