Shapes, Patterns, and Arrangements: Math Activities for Preschoolers

Red, blue, green. Red, blue, green. How much do your preschoolers know about patterns? Since they have a basic knowledge of colors and shapes, this is a good year to tackle this concept!

And do your students know the difference between a pattern and an arrangement, with the latter simply meaning "design"? Students' basic knowledge of shapes can also help them understand this topic in the Pre-K classroom.

You can start teaching your students about math patterns and arrangements using the two activities below, with PDF instructions for teachers available for download.

Activity: Describing Arrangements of Cubes

Detailed instructions available for download as a PDF.

In this activity, children place three cubes on their workmats, showing the cubes in any arrangement they like. Provide an example so the class understands the meaning of arrangement. Explain that the word arrangement means “design,” or the way children show their cubes on the workmats.

Encourage children to create different arrangements and ask them for descriptions. Allow children to describe the arrangements first, and then introduce the words on the downloadable worksheet if children do not use them. 

Children may say they displayed their cubes in the same way as a classmate so there must be three. To other children, the display will look different, so they may not be sure. 

Allow children to discuss the question; then correct any misconceptions expressed. Repeat the activity with four cubes. 

Activity: Making Repeating Patterns

Detailed instructions available for download as a PDF.

Each pair of children needs eight Inch Squares of three different colors for a total of 24 squares. Tell children that they are going to make a new pattern today using the squares.

Make a pattern using red, blue, and green squares, and ask your students the questions on the PDF worksheet. If children have trouble seeing the smallest repeating unit, make a small space after each repeating unit so that they can see how the unit repeats. 

Next, have children make their own patterns, and have each pair say the pattern using their colors. Finally, have one partner in a pair hide his or her eyes. Ask the other partner to take away one, two, or three squares. 

Then, ask the first partner to open her or his eyes and count the number of squares now. Pairs will get different results depending on how many squares a partner removes, but children will get practice counting 9, 10, or 11 objects. Ask partners to reverse roles.

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Learn more about HMH's Math Expressions Early Learning Resources program, which helps children make sense of math by exploring, discussing, and demonstrating their understanding of key concepts. 

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