Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation



Eating Up Patterns
Children will sort by color and then create and extend patterns using Fruit Loops cereal.
Content Area Standard Target
  • Algebra
  • Understand patterns, relations and functions
  • Sort and classifying by color
  • Identify, model, and create patterns
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Fruit Loops Cereal
  • Baggies (to hold cereal)
  • Small bowls (or organizer trays) to use to sort cereal
  • Pipe cleaners


Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
  1. Show the children the Fruit Loops cereal.
  2. Ask:  “Is the cereal all the same?"  "How is it different?" "How is it the same?" "Are they all the same size?" "Color?"
  3. Tell the children that you are going to "sort" the cereal into groups based on color (put all of the pink together, yellow together, etc.) 
  4. Say: "Now that we have sorted the cereal we are going to create patterns with the cereal."  
  5. Explain that a pattern is something that repeats more than once.  (pink, green, pink, green)
  6. Create a pattern only using two colors at first.
  7. Ask the children what they think will come next?
  8. Continue the pattern using more of the cereal.
  9. Ask the children if your extension is correct. If they are correct, eat up the pattern!
  10. Repeat steps 6-8 increasing the number of colors and difficulty of the pattern as you go.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Tell the children that it is their turn to create a pattern using cereal.
  2. Give each child a small bag (or cup) of cereal. 
  3. Ask the children to sort the cereal into different groups based on color.
  4. Create a pattern that each child will copy.  Ask them to copy your pattern and then extend the pattern. Once they have checked their extension with you they can eat their pattern up.
  5. Ask the children to create their own pattern using the cereal. 
  6. Encourage them to describe what their pattern is and have them show the group before they eat it up.
  7. Give each child a pipe cleaner and tell him/her to create a pattern by placing the cereal on the pipe cleaner.
  8. Ask them what their pattern is.
  9. Encourage them to make longer extended patterns. 
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Sort – Separating the items according to a given attribute (e.g., "Let’s sort the motors by putting them into groups according to whether they float, fly, or drive.")
  • Classify – Putting items in the same group based on similar traits and providing a name to the grouping (e.g., "We classified this group of motors as the floaters, all these motors together make another group, etc.")
  • More than, less than, the same – Words used to compare quantity (e.g., "There are more flying motors than floating motors. There are less red motors than blue motors.")
  • Count – To identify the amount of something by number (e.g., "Let’s count how many motors that drive we have.")
  • Amount – The total number of an item (e.g., "What is the total amount of motors you used?")
  • Same – Equal in number (e.g., "Does the fly group have the same amount as the drive group?")
  • Different  Not the same, acoording to any attribute such as size, shape, amount, length, etc. (e.g., "How is this motor different than the other motor?")
  • More than  A value that is higher or greater in number (e.g., "Which group of motors has more than the float group?")
  • Less – A value that is smaller in number (e.g., "Does this group have less motors than the fly group? Can you sort your items into different groups?")
  • Same – Identical in kind or quantity (e.g., "Are these things the same?")
  • Different – Not similar in size, shape, color or other characteristic (e.g., "How are they different?")
  • Classify – Naming the groups based on their same characteristics (e.g., "We classify the cereal as orange, green, pink, etc.")
  • Pattern – Something that repeats more than once (e.g., "Can you find the pattern? What is your pattern?")
  • Repeating – To do or make again and again (e.g., "Does a pattern repeat?")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Eat the cereal and not pattern them.
  • Not be able to recognize a pattern or extend a pattern.
  • Call their creation a pattern, even if it is not.
Vertical line

Preschoolers may:

  • Eat the cereal and not pattern them.
  • Copy an adult’s pattern.
  • Extend a pattern.
  • Make a pattern but not be able to describe it.
  • Describe their pattern.
  • Recognize when something is not a pattern.

Home child care providers may:

  • Use items to pattern other than cereal. (something not edible)
  • Have children eat the cereal in a pattern. Eat 2 green, 2 pink, 2 green, 2 pink. Now what should you eat next?
  • Make a pattern and encourage children
    to describe it with support.
  • Compare the their pattern with the child’s
    non-pattern saying “I have 2 pink and 2 green and 2 pink and 2 green, you have 2 pink and 1 green and a 1 orange.”
  • Ask, “Can you make a new pattern starting
    with 3 green?”

Home child care providers may:

  • Have children eat the cereal in a pattern. Eat 2 green, 2 pink, 2 green, 2 pink. Now what should you eat next?
  • Encourage the children to compare their patterns with their classmates.
  • Ask children to make more complex patterns “can you use 4 different colors in your pattern?”
Books Books
  • Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris (Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press, 2000)
  • What's Next Nina? by Sue Kassierer (New York: Kane Press, 2001)
  • Patterns by Ivan Bulloch (Chicago, IL: World Book Inc., 1994)
  • Mouse and the Apple by Stephen Butler (Topeka, KS: Sagebrush Education Resources, 1994)
  • Dots, Spots, Speckles, and Stripes by Tana Hoban (New York: Greenwillow Books, 1987)
  • Exactly the Opposite by Tana Hoban (New York: Greenwillow Books, 1990)
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff (New York: HarperCollins, 1985)
  • Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell (Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2010)


Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Go on a leaf walk and collect leaves.  Look for patterns in the leaf designs.
  • Go on a walk around the neighborhood, what kinds of patterns are all around the neighborhood?  Look for patterns in the sidewalk, with windows and doors etc.


Explore links Web Resources




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