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Repeating patterns

Many patterns that students experience in early childhood are repeating patterns.

This fence is a one-dimensional repeating pattern, that is, the pattern repeats in one direction.

A fence made of vertical metal bars, with alternating long and short bars.

A wrought iron fence.
Source: NCPTT Media. Licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0).

On the other hand, these tiles form a two-dimensional repeating pattern, that is, the pattern repeats in two directions (both horizontally and vertically).

Eight tiles: four across, two deep. All the tiles have an identical pattern. The pattern repeats at the intersections.

Patterned floor tiles.
Source: Getty/Pete Ryan.

The essence of a repeating pattern is that it can be made by repeating a 'chunk' of the pattern.

This chunk is called a unit of repeat.

Can you find units of repeat for the fence and the tiles?

One-dimensional repeating patterns

A one-dimensional repeating pattern has a pattern that repeats in one direction, but there is always more than one possible unit of repeat.

Two-dimensional repeating patterns

Two-dimensional patterns also have more than one possible unit of repeat.

Repeating patterns and multiplication

Repeating patterns lead easily into ideas of skip counting, multiplication and division, and odd and even numbers.