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Anna Kingsbury
MTH 221
November 3, 2014
Family Math Night Reflection
The title of Meredith Lane and I’s Family Math Night activity was “Halloween Patterns”
and it was best suited for children in grades K-2 because of the fact that it was based around
the simple concept of a pattern, but could easily be adapted for older students. We got the basis
for our activity off of the NCTM Illuminations, but we had to adapt it some to make it more of a
fun experience and less of a lesson. The mathematical content that was covered through this
activity was algebraic because of the repetition and patterns. For our activity, we only needed
different shapes of varying colors for the children to manipulate into patterns. We had 3 different
shapes: an apple, ghost, and a pumpkin; with 8 of each shape in red, orange, yellow, white, and
black in order to allow for plenty of festive variety.
In our activity, we first started by asking the students if they knew what a pattern was,
and if they did, to share with us their own ideas about it. Meredith and I then gave them our
definition of a pattern - “when the shapes are set up to repeat following a set of rules based
around the “pattern’s core” - which is anything/feature about the shape that makes it
different/unique.” In order to help the students fully understand this concept, we then built
different patterns in front of them and questioned them about whether it was a pattern or not,
and what made it a pattern if it was. We built a pattern with all the same color using different
shapes, with all the same shape using different colors, and one with alternating colors using
completely different shapes. We did this to show the students that in order for something to be a
pattern you did not need both the color and shape to alternate, but that it only took one
repeating pattern core to make the sequence into a pattern, simply depending on which aspect
of the shape you were looking at. We then asked students to create their own pattern and
explain to us what made it one. Then we manipulated their pattern in order to create different or
more complex examples and talked with them about why or how it would still be considered a
pattern. For example, we would switch out a color for another and ask if it were still a pattern
and for the student to explain their reasoning. For older students, we asked them to create more
complex patterns with more than one pattern core. We repeated this until the students could
easily identify what classified as a pattern and what did not and then informed the students that
they were a “pattern pro” and gave them their sticker and handout. In order for students to
participate in this activity, they had to be able to differentiate between different colors and

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shapes, and had to know what it meant for something to be “repeating”. We found it was easier
for the children to complete our activity if they had at least some prior practice with patterns.
Meredith and I chose this activity because we thought that it would be fairly simple to
recreate and would flow smoothly when done with the children and that the progression through
the steps of the activity would make sense to a student developing new ideas about what
constituted as a pattern. We also thought that it would be easy to adapt to fit older students who
had a better understanding of patterns by asking them to make more complex patterns with
multiple pattern cores or asking them to guess what the next shape would be at the end of their
It was interesting to see how different children, even those on the same grade level,
were at different capabilities when it came to our activity. It came as no surprise that some of the
younger children had some trouble at first with the activity and only understood simpler patterns.
One little girl, who could not have yet been in kindergarten, simply said that every thing was a
pattern when responding to our questions and it was evident that she did not quite grasp the
concept of a sequence that was repeating. It surprised me, however, when two students of the
same age came up to our table and one had a very firm grip on what a pattern was and could
answer our questions about complex patterns, while the other student struggled with more of
the simple patterns - such as the one that was all one color but was different shapes. The
children did seem to enjoy our activity, and one girl even expressed her joy over being able to
do another pattern activity, as there was another activity very similar to ours. Some of the
students gave unanticipated responses when we asked them to make a sequence that was not
a pattern into one. Many students simply added onto the end of the sequence so that it would
repeat - while we expected them to switch out one or more of the shapes in order to get a
pattern core that worked.
In the future, I think that it would be a good idea to reinforce to the students that the rule
that made the sequence into a pattern was called the pattern core. I believe this would help
them to better understand the concept and make it easier for us to assess their understanding
because asking them “what makes this/does not make this a pattern?” is very vague and made
it difficult for us to get the answers that we were looking for. Meredith and I had also, in our
preparations, decided to give the students pattern core requirements when having them create
their own pattern - such as “only two colors” or “only one shape” or “put two of the same in a
row”. As we did the activity, this did not really end up happening and we just let the children
make their own pattern however they wanted because it ended up being much easier that way.
However, I believe that it would have been beneficial to the students to give them pattern core

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requirements to reinforce their ideas about what has to repeat in order to make a sequence of
shapes into a pattern.
None of the children who participated in our activity seemed to find it surprising that a
pattern activity was part of Family Math Night, as most of them had previously discussed
patterns in their math classes. I think that a lot of the students were surprised, however, to find
that it could be turned into a kind of game and that the shapes could be switched around in
many different ways and the sequence could still work as a pattern, depending on what aspect
of the shape they looked at. Going into Family Math Night, I simply did not think about the fact
that many children would be coming up to our table of varying age groups, such as with their
younger or older siblings. I have no idea why I didn't anticipate this, since it is called FAMILY
Math Night, but it was slightly distressing for Meredith and I to try to adapt our explanations and
phrasings so that we could explain our activity to a kindergartener and a fourth grader at the
same time without confusing or boring either of them. This is where it came in fairly handy to
have two of us there, so that we could split the siblings up in order to explain the activity’s
concepts to them at their grade level. I believe this experience was worth my time because it
helped me to better comprehend the varying levels of understanding that children have, not only
in different grade levels, but also at the same age just depending on how they learn.
I found it was very beneficial to have a partner to work with while preparing for Family
Math Night because it was very nice to have someone to talk about different ideas with or
different ways of presenting the activity to the children - someone to bounce ideas off of and to
critique those ideas. I feel Meredith and I did a fairly equal share of the the work because we
split up some of the different tasks that we had to do to prepare. For example - she made the
handout while I made our paper flow better, I made the cutout shapes and she made the poster
board, I typed up a “cheat sheet” for us to refer back to during the night while she got to Sibley
early enough to do the set up. Also, throughout the whole process we worked together to come
up with ideas for the logistics of the the activity - such as how it would be set up, the order in
which we would conduct it, or the questions we could ask the students to ensure their
comprehension. As discussed earlier, it was very beneficial to have two of us there at Family
Math Night, particularly when students of different age groups approached our activity at the
same time so that we could individually tailor our explanations and the activity itself to suit their
grade level and understanding. Because of the amount of work and thought we each put into
this project, I would give us each at least between 18-20 out of 20 points.
My favorite part about Family Math Night was the fact that there was such a variation in
the ages of children that attended because I got to see the different stages of learning and

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development in them; even though this fact made carrying out our activity slightly difficult at
times. I also really enjoyed finding that there were a lot of students that showed up and
progressed through the activities with their families. In the future, I think that it would be
beneficial if we could find a way to incorporate the participation of parents into the activities
more, as most of the time they just stood back and watched unless they had very young
children that were in need of help. I believe that if the parents participated in the activities with
their children, it would help the students to learn better and connect math with fun, as well as
helping to connect the parents in with their children’s learning and education.