Design Patterns

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 20, 2006

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • Graphic Design

Subject Area

  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


In this lesson, students will extend and create patterns. Through a variety of activities, they will be encouraged to think about patterns as they exist in math and their everyday lives.

National Standards

Standard 1. Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process

Standard 2. Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of numbers
Standard 8. Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of functions and algebra


Students will do the following:

  • identify and discuss patterns in their daily lives
  • create a pattern for a necklace using four different objects
  • describe the pattern they created


  • "Design a Necklace" handout


  • string
  • items to create necklaces, i.e., beads, macaroni, pieces of drinking straws, Cheerio-type cereal

Extension Activity Materials:

  • string
  • embroidery needles
  • items to create bird necklaces, i.e., cranberries, popcorn, raisins, apple slices, Cheerio-type cereal


Building Background
Patterns of Everyday Life 

The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to create a visual representation of the pattern of their daily lives.

1. Engage students in a conversation about their school day routines.
2. Discuss the patterns that emerged during the discussion.
3. Using your routine as a model, draw symbols on a piece of chart paper to create a visual pattern of your school day routine. (Example: A clock for waking up, a bowl and spoon for breakfast, a tooth brush for getting ready for school, a car for getting to school, etc.)
4. Ask students to create a pattern for their own school day routine.
5. Break students into pairs and have them share their patterns.

Steps for Learning
Design a Necklace

In this activity, students will construct a necklace based on a pattern that they create.

1. Explain to students that they are going to construct a necklace based on a pattern that they create.
2. In preparation for the activity, gather string and at least four different items that will be strung onto the piece of string. These items may include beads, macaroni, Cheerios cereal, pieces of drinking straws, etc.  If you choose to use only beads to create the necklaces, make sure that you have at least four different colors of beads.
3. Explain to students that the first step in creating their necklace is to create the pattern on paper using the letters A, B, C and D. Illustrate this by assigning a letter to each of the four items that will be used to construct the necklace.  For instance if "A" equals cereal, "B" equals beads, "C" equals macaroni and " D" equals a piece of drinking straw, then a necklace made up of an AACDDDBB pattern would consist of two pieces of cereal, one macaroni, three straw pieces and two beads.
4. Decide as a class what letter values will be assigned to the items that will be used to construct the necklace.

Teacher Note: If you are using beads, assign each color or differently shaped bead its own letter value.

5. Give each student a copy of the "Design a Necklace" handout. Tell students that they will create a pattern on the worksheet using the four letters. After students have completed their pattern, have them create the necklace.
6. After students have completed their necklaces, have them share their necklaces with the class by describing and explaining the pattern they used to create their necklace.


Answer the following question:

Does your necklace match the pattern that you created?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Bird Necklaces
Have students create bird necklaces to feed the birds around your school. Ask students to create a pattern as they string Cheerio-type cereal and/or cranberries, popcorn, raisins, apple slices, etc. onto a piece of string. Embroidery-type needles with a dull point can be used to string the items. After students have completed the bird necklaces, hang them in the schoolyard for the birds to enjoy.

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