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What is a Pattern in Math? - Definition & Rules

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  • 0:03 What Is a Pattern?
  • 1:10 Number Patterns
  • 2:03 Shape Patterns
  • 2:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kadoria Burgess

I have a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Spanish. I have taught for 5 years in bilingual classrooms of various elementary grade levels.

Some people say that doing the same thing over and over again will not get you results, but this lesson will teach you about mathematical patterns and show you how to prove those people wrong.

What Is a Pattern?

'The itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and the itsy-bitsy spider went up the spout again.' The itsy-bitsy spider song is an example of a pattern. A pattern is a series or sequence that repeats. The itsy-bitsy spider climbed the water spout, and then did the same thing again after the weather cleared up.

You can observe patterns - things like colors, shapes, actions, or other sequences that repeat - everywhere. Think about words or melodies in songs, lines and curves on buildings, or even in the grocery store where boxes and jars of various items are lined up.

But, one of the most common places to find patterns is in math. Math patterns are sequences that repeat according to a rule or rules. In math, a rule is a set way to calculate or solve a problem.

Number Patterns

One common type of math pattern is a number pattern. Number patterns are a sequence of numbers that are ordered based upon a rule. There are many ways to figure out the rule, such as:

  • Use a number line to see the distance between the numbers or what they have in common
  • Look at the last one or two digits or the first digit to see if they repeat in a special manner
  • Look at the numbers and see if there is a pattern, like taking each number and multiplying by 3 for instance
  • Think about common number patterns, like counting by 2s, 5s, or 10s, and/or
  • Find the difference between the numbers

It's important to remember that a number pattern can have more than one solution and a combination of rules. If this is the case, try to think of the simplest rule possible, like adding 1 or multiplying by 2 with a difference of 3.

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