TES Maths ROTW: Growing patterns activity

Craig Barton
20th February 2017

TES Maths Resource of the Week

Resource title: Growing patterns activity

Resource author: Flibit

What is it?

I have long been an advocate of exploring sequences through geometric patterns, rather than relying on numerical or algebraic representations. Looking at how shapes grow can help students to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying rule of a sequence. This, in turn, enables them to make predictions and generalisations in a way that just looking at an nth term rule does not. And that's precisely how this versatile group activity works.

For each pattern, students are presented with a geometric representation, an nth term, a table of numbers and a graph. Having uncovered as much information as they can, pupils must then look at where the numbers in the nth term formula appear in each of the representations. By linking different areas of maths and spotting connections, students have a much better chance of getting to grips with this concept.

How can it be used?

The activity is fully resourced and really well-structured. The author suggests giving each member of the group a different pattern to work on, before sharing their findings and seeking help from others as necessary.

In my experience, there are not many students who are able to make the link between straight line graphs and sequences. As such, the ability to instantly generate graphs via free software such as Desmos can come in useful.

To extend students, why not give them a chance to create their own patterns on a blank card? Or, perhaps just give them one piece of information (eg, the graph) and ask them to fill in the rest themselves.

Craig Barton

Craig is a secondary maths teacher in the North of England.

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