Patterns & Measurement

Opportunities to explore pattern and measurement occur daily in preschool classrooms.  When teachers are aware of these opportunities they can self-talk to help the children to see and hear the language that goes along with patterns and measurement.  Preschoolers are just becoming aware of patterns and measurement in their world and need to be given chances to talk about what they are seeing and doing.  As Educators we can remember that this is new thinking for preschool aged children so we must teach them the vocabulary and not expect perfection.

Patterns are found in every aspect of our lives.   Understanding patterns is the key to algebra and a strong basic mathematical foundation.  Preschool children should have experiences that allow them to recognize, represent, and extend patterns.   It is important for them also to see the pattern in plus-one and minus-one (the song B-I-N-G-O) is an example of minus-one.  Building a number chart 1-5 is an example of plus- one).  Preschool children are beginners to understanding pattern play.  They should be given many opportunities to look for and extend patterns regularly. 

We use measurement every day as we look at and compare relationships in our world.  During the preschool years, children begin to become aware of measurement concepts and to experiment with the use of standard and non-standard tools of measurement.  Preschool children are beginners to the understanding of measurement and model adults in using measurement tools and language.   They should be given many opportunities to explore measurement activities.  Teachers can help children see that measurement is all around them by thinking out loud (5 more minutes until cleanup) or by describing when you are measuring (I need to back up a little or the swing will hit me).  During the preschool years, experimenting with measurement and hearing measurement language is a key to understanding mathematical concepts and relationships later on. 



Look for patterns in the environment (See how the bricks of the building form a pattern?).

Make your Daily Routine into a children’s visual. 

While coming to group start with body patterns to get the children’s attention (stomp, stomp, clap.  Stomp, stomp, clap.).

Look for and name patterns on children’s clothing.

Plus one is a pattern.  Build a number line 1-10 with visuals in art.

Challenge the children to build stairs in blocks.

Make a pattern and have the children repeat. 

Include materials that encourage children to extend a pattern such as stringing beads or stamp padding letters around the edge of the paper.

As the children are working and you see they have made a pattern, acknowledge it.  (Look, you made a pattern!).

Counting is a pattern.

When you talk about the weather or the calendar use the words, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Color patterns are generally easiest for children to see and follow.

Read books that have repetitive lines such as Brown Bear Brown Bear.

Sing songs and do finger plays that have patterns such as Days of The Week or John Brown’s Baby.

Line up by B-G-B-G-B-G…


Play games that make children think about heavier/lighter, shorter/taller, wider/narrower, thinner/thicker and smaller/bigger.  (Which is taller; a horse or a dog?).

Use time words throughout the day.  Earlier, later, this morning, this afternoon, tomorrow, in 5 minutes, first, next, after, last.

Teach weather vocabulary (sweltering, hot, warm, cool, chilly, cold, freezing).

Cut a one-foot piece of yarn for each child and challenge them to find items that are one-foot long.

Give the children something to measure each other’s height and hang from the ceiling or wall (I’ve used yarn, crepe paper, and chain links).

Have the children describe a sequence of events from a story or from experience.

Make a height and weight chart for the room.  Do several times per year and compare the old with the new.

Model measuring whenever possible and use many measuring words throughout the day.  (Children must learn the words for weight, length, area, and capacity so that they can talk about similarities and differences.

Add rulers and a yardstick to your classroom.

Add graph paper and measuring cups.

Show the children the clock and tell them 10 minutes till cleanup and show them where the hands of the clock will be in 10 minutes.

Graph!  Make and use graphs regularly.  Use with every thematic theme.  Put them on the wall for the children to see. 

Give each child 2 crayons and ask them to make an ABAB pattern on the snake. As they get confident, try using different patterns.
Make several copies of the feet for the children to use to measure how long objects or each other are. I recommend making the feet about the size of a child’s.