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How do you teach the unit of repeat?
Here are some ways to help students learn to identify the unit of repeat in onedimensional patterns.

Do not spend a long time making and drawing alternating AB patterns.
The alternation often distracts students' attention away from the unit of repeat. 
Use handson materials such as interlocking cubes.
Patterns made from manipulable materials can be easily pulled apart and the pieces compared. 
Use examples that have only complete units of repeat.
But occasionally make a 'deliberate mistake' and see if students can spot what is wrong.  Ask students to make a repeating pattern using a unit of repeat that you have given them (or one they have created themselves).
 Frequently ask students to use the unit of repeat to find the total 'length' of the pattern.

Challenge students to fill in the gaps in a repeating pattern where you have removed some of the pieces.
These challenges can range from easy tasks to more difficult tasks.
Colour in the missing square in this repeating pattern:  Find the missing letters in this repeating pattern: 

A B B ? A B ? ? A B ? C 
An easy task.  A more difficult task. 
Always stress that the unit of repeat must be identical throughout the pattern.