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As students learn about pattern, there are some ideas that cause them particular difficulties.

Students need to learn these ideas if they are to understand patterns and use them in various areas of the early mathematics curriculum. You can download a list of content descriptions in Patterns and their Applications in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.

These ideas also form a sound foundation for later mathematics learning.

It is therefore worth spending some time to ensure that students understand them well.

These ideas are all related to the big ideas of patterning discussed elsewhere in this drawer.

Identical units of repeat

A repeating pattern can be described completely by indicating the unit of repeat and stating the number of repetitions. Young students sometimes have difficulty identifying the unit of repeat, even in one-dimensional patterns.

Rectangular grids

A rectangular grid is a rectangle filled with identical squares, with no spaces between them. It can be a most valuable aid in learning early spatial and arithmetical concepts.

Number lines

Number lines are commonly found on measuring instruments, graphs and timelines. The marks on a number line are equally spaced and therefore form a repeating pattern.

Number sequences

A number sequence is a growing pattern of numbers. There must be a definite rule explaining how each number is obtained.


Some shapes fit together to make a two-dimensional repeating pattern that leaves no gaps. This type of pattern is called a tessellation.