Sunday, August 31, 2014

Visual Patterns

I'm rehearsing for a play called August: Osage County, and in it, my character abruptly stands up and announces, "I have a truth to tell!"

I also have a truth to tell. I never used Fawn's Visual Patterns website. I've known its existence, but I try not to do too many new things each year because I have a hard time following through on everything. I have been using Andrew's, which will probably infuriate Fawn even more. Sorry, Fawn.

Fawn wrote about her opening day activities, and one thing she included was this visual pattern:

After reading her post, I decided that this is the year I'm going to give her website a shot. On the second day of classes, I asked students to draw the fifth diagram. Aside from having difficulties with drawing cubes, most of the diagrams were fine. I then explained that we would be looking at more patterns throughout the year, and they would develop a better understanding of algebra because of this. I explained that one of the things I would like them to learn is how to figure out how many blocks would be in any diagram, such as the 43rd. As soon as I said that, about six kids started frantically scribbling in their notebooks. My first thought was, "Crap! I was going to do something else now and I've just distracted you with a math problem!" And then I thought, "Hey, they're distracted by a math problem. Let's go with that." So, as I would normally do in this situation, I let them try it. And sure enough, quite a few of them figured out the correct number of blocks in the 43rd diagram. There were even some great variations on the process that we were able to share (none of which I've captured here...sorry).

This was the first activity of the year that challenged my students. I'm pretty sure that Visual Patterns (along with estimation180!) will continue to be a part of my classroom routine.


  1. Visual patterns are awesome. They really provide a path to algebra. I love to see how different students come up with their pattern and I love to show how all the expressions can be written in the same with by simplifying them.

    Fawn is pretty awesome for sharing these patterns with us. But a Andrew is sending me a shirt. No shirt from Fawn...yet!

    Enjoy the patterns!

  2. About time. You really should try to be a better teacher, Nathan, by exposing them to awesome stuff.

    But I love you, Mary. (And cool people like us don't need to wear certain shirts.)

    1. Be a better teacher? That IS a good idea. You're lucky I get your sarcasm.

  3. The other day one of my Alg 1 students chose to do a quadratic one and figured out the equation like it was nothing. My head exploded! Gets me every time.