Children are learning to understand patterns in their preschool years. For example, when shown a model such as a row of blocks with alternating colors they will imitate the model by following the pattern of red block, blue block, red block, blue block.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) algebra standard specifies the understanding, knowledge, and skills that students should acquire. Beginning as early as preschool and continuing through grade 12 students should learn to:
• Understand patterns, relations, and functions;
• Represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols;
• Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships;
• Analyze change in various contexts (NCTM, 2000, para.1).
Children are learning to understand patterns in their preschool years. For example, when shown a model such as a row of blocks with alternating colors they will imitate the model by following the pattern of red block, blue block, red block, blue block. As noted by Taylor-Cox (2003), “patterns serve as the cornerstone of algebraic thinking” (p.15). Using patterns as a component of the foundation for algebraic thinking and reasoning is a logical fit for young children, who “are not only capable of noticing patterns but often use this skill naturally to make sense of their world” (Moses, 2000, p.5). Young children are also developing beginning concepts related to patterns, functions and other algebraic topics when they learn repetitive songs, rhythmic chants, and poems that are based on repeating and growing patterns (NCTM, 2000).
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000) identifies the following expectations for the understanding of patterns within the algebra standard in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 2.
All students should:
• Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties.
• Recognize, describe, and extend patterns such as sequences of sounds and shapes from one representation to another.
• Analyze how both repeating and growing patterns are generated
Web sites about math in the early years can be found at:
Moses, B. (2000). Elementary grades: Exploring our world through algebraic thinking. Mathematics Education Dialogues,3(2), 5.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics: Math standards and expectations. Reston, VA: NCTM. Retrieved on December 1, 2009 from http://www.nctm.org/standards/content. aspx?id=312
Stockton, J. (Nov-Dec ,2009). Algebra—it’s elementary. T/TAC Telegram. XIV, 2, 12-13. Retrieved December 17, 2009 from (broken link) http://ttac.gmu.edu/assests/docs/TTAC/newsletters/nov-dec_09_web.pdf
Taylor-Cox, J. (2003). Algebra in the early years? Yes! Young Children, 14-21.