I was assigned the task of finding a visual pattern that would only take 15 minutes to facilitate during our NCSM presentation. Boy, did this send me down a rabbit hole! Jump in with me! Keep scrolling… don’t miss the best part!

I started at VisualPatterns.org. Why wouldn’t I? Fawn Nguyen has created this amazing site filled with awesome visual patterns! As I was clicking through I found the one below that stood out to me… one by the amazing Megan Schmidt. And that’s where I found bricks. Models built with LEGO bricks. How cool!? I needed to find a way to make this work.

So I started playing with my son’s LEGO bricks. I arranged them in a variety of ways and tortured everyone I saw with them. It’s a funny kind of torture, when you approach someone and ask, “Want to play with LEGO bricks with me?” It’s all fun and games until you start asking math questions. Then they get this funny look on their faces… [insert evil cackle]

I landed on this pattern which seemed to work with every age from 4-104. Ok, that’s kind of a lie. I had to adapt. I hope you have as much with this as I have.

Here’s the original pattern.

I wanted a reasonable combination of constant & change.

To varying degrees and in every circumstance imaginable, I asked people to create Figure 4, guiding them through reasoning about:

  • how many in each Figure
  • how many stay the same (are constant)
  • which ones change and how you see the change
  • how to describe the Figures using the variable n to represent the Figure number within an equation

To my wonder and excitement, every adult engaged in this task was successful in creating an equation!

Jo Boaler Quote

What equation do you get? Post it in the comments below!

The beauty is, there isn’t ONE RIGHT EQUATION! And how many people said to me, “I never understood what n-1 meant before!” or “I can see 2n for the first time!”

Giddy with excitement, I kept going… I couldn’t stop there! Jo says “high ceiling” so I took that literally. We went UP!

“If I put these green bricks here, what would you do to Figure 4?”

Even my 6 year old LOVED this part!

My little Mr. 6 reasoning about Figure 4.

Ok… a little secret: with the little ones, I scaffolded. *sigh* I know! Check out how I started them off! This is my 4 year old getting started with her #VisualBrickPattern. After this she moved on to the one above.

“Now what does that do to your equation?” Even those who proclaimed “I am NOT a math person!” were suddenly adapting and adding to their own equations! (This is where I began feeling a bit like a Dr. Seuss character!)

Now this is the best part…

It took me about 8 tries to get the wording right.

“Can you please use this new bag of different sized & shaped pieces to add or edit/change what’s in front of you. But it still has to continue a pattern!”

I am not lying that not one single person added to the pattern in the same way. (No… the children weren’t all able to do this part… but even the most fixed mindset adult COULD!)

Let me rephrase: every single person I’ve asked to complete this last part of the task has created a unique pattern!

And I might add… each person was able to describe how their new pattern affects their equation!

If this photo gallery below is the highlight of my career, I’m happy!

Won’t you try it out for yourself? Share! Tweet! #VisualBrickPatterns