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

CME Group Community Foundation



Patterns in Sounds and Shapes

Children will listen to and recognize patterns in sounds, actions, and shapes.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Algebra
  • Understand patterns, relations, and functions
  • Recognize and describe and extend patterns such as sequences of sounds and shapes or simple numeric patterns and translate from one representation to another
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Pasta in 3 different variety of shapes such as elbow, rigatoni and bowtie pasta shapes. You might choose to create a ziploc bag for each child with a number of each type of pasta in each bag.
  • Home made pasta pattern cards, 2 per child.  Make cards by tracing, drawing, or gluing pasta in various patterns on a piece of construction paper or poster board.  Make at least 2 pattern cards  for each child , one with a simple sequence such as 2 elbows, 1 rigatoni, 2 elbows, 1 rigatoni, 2 elbows, 1 rigatoni and one with a more complex sequence such as 1 elbow, 2 rigatoni, 1 bowtie, 1 elbow, 2 rigatoni, 1 bowtie etc. You can even make pasta pattern cards that leave spaces for the more advanced children to fill in the missing pasta in the pattern, or continue the pattern with now actual picture to prompt them.


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. Say: "I am going to make some sounds/actions that create a pattern.  You listen and watch and see if you can recognize a pattern." Examples of action patterns that children can follow include ones that involve hand-claps, knee slaps, snapping fingers and singing etc.
  2. Try using these three action patterns that you can get your students to follow:
    • Clap hands, slap knees (repeat)
    • Snap fingers, clap hands, slap knees (repeat)
    • Slap knees, slap knees, clap hands (repeat)
    Remind the children that it is NOT a pattern if it is not repeated. It is only through repetition that a pattern is made. Thus clapping hands and snapping fingers is NOT a pattern.  Clapping hands and snapping fingers and repeating the sequence IS a pattern.
  3. Ask the children “What do you hear?” “Do you hear any patterns?”  “Why is this a pattern?”  “Why is this NOT a pattern?” Can any of you make a sound/action pattern for us?”  Encourage the children to make a sound pattern of their own.
  4. Create sequences of sounds/actions that are not patterns to make sure that the children are understanding the difference between non-patterns and patterns. Throughout the lesson you should be asking the children, "Is this a pattern? Why or why not?"
  5. Demonstrate patterns again but by using pasta shapes.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Say: "We are going to make our own patterns with pasta!"
  2. Show children the three different pasta shapes they are going to use. Provide the correct name for each type of pasta.
  3. Hand out a bag of pasta to each child. Have the children find each type of pasta in their bag of pasta.
  4. Show the children a pasta pattern card. Ask: "Can you see a pattern on the card?" “Do you see any patterns in my picture?”  “What is the pattern?”  Have the children share their answers making comments and corrections.
  5. Show and have the children follow you in matching each type of pasta on their pattern card to create the pattern.
  6. Choose a second pattern card and follow the same procedure.
  7. Allow the children to choose their own pasta pattern card. When the children are making patterns of their own with the pasta and pasta pattern cards, ask the children,  “What is your pattern?” “Can you show me your pattern?”  “Can you tell me your pattern?”
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • 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?")
  • 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:

  • Listen to sounds.
  • Clap hands and stomp feet and slap knees in no particular order.
  • Play with the pasta.
  • Sort pasta by shape.
  • Match shapes to pasta pattern cards.


Vertical line

Pre-K may:

  • Listen to the sounds and clap hands, snap fingers and slap knees with the teacher.
  • Make sound patterns of their own.
  • Sort pasta by shape.
  • Match pasta to shape cards.
  • Fill in missing shapes to continue pattern on more advanced cards.
  • Continue pattern without visual prompts.
  • Create own patterns without visual prompts.


Home child care providers may:

  • Clap hands and feet for child in a pattern.
  • Verbalize the pattern for the child saying “listen-- clap clap, slap slap clap clap slap slap etc.”
  • Help child clap and slap a pattern.
  • Ask child, “Can you put all of this kind of pasta in this bowl?  Now, let’s find this kind and put it in this other bowl etc.”
  • Assist child in matching shapes.


Home child care providers may:

  • Clap hands and feet for child in a pattern.
  • Verbalize the pattern for the child saying “listen --clap clap, slap slap clap clap slap slap etc.”
  • Ask the child to make his/her own sound pattern.
  • Ask child to tell you how they are sorting their pasta shapes. 
  • Ask them to make their own pattern.
  • Encourage the child to predict which shape comes next in the pattern.


Books Books
  • The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle (New York: Peguin Books for Young Children, 1990)
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak (New York: Harper Collins, 1962)
  • One Monday Morning by Uri Shulevitz (Canada: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1967)
Music and movement Music and Movement
  • Have the children make patterns with movement!  Alternate hopping and running, or skipping and jumping to create patterns.   


Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Take a walk and look for patterns in flowers and leaves.
  • Create patterns with chalk on the sidewalk.


Explore links Web Resources




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