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Repeating patterns in the environment

Here are two examples of patterns students might find on a pattern hunt.


A brick wall with each row alternating short and long bricks.

A brick wall.
Source: not provided. Licensed under a Free Art License 1.3.

A country panorama showing a wooden fence with regularly-spaced upright posts and four regularly-spaced rails.

A wooden fence.
Source: faukto_digit. Licensed under a Creative-Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).


Both are spatial repeating patterns.

Drawings of such patterns use the same understanding needed to draw rectangular grids.

Students may comment only on the pattern in one direction, for example, describing the wall in the first image as "small brick, big brick, repeated"; others may recognise it as repeating in two dimensions and forming a tessellation.

Such examples provide an excellent context for introducing more advanced language.

The most important term is congruent which is equivalent to saying that a repeating pattern has identical units of repeat.

Other useful terms are rectangle and parallel.

Most repeating patterns in the environment occur in manufactured objects.

Some examples are tiles, pavers, windows, zebra crossings and railway lines.

Such objects are generally assembled from units that are very nearly identical.

They can readily be modelled using cardboard cut-outs and represented digitally using software such as Pattern Blocks.

Curriculum links

Year 1: Investigate and describe number patterns formed by skip counting and patterns with objects

Year 2: Describe and draw two-dimensional shapes, with and without digital technologies

Foundation Year: Sort and classify familiar objects and explain the basis for these classifications. Copy, continue and create patterns with objects and drawings