4 ways to help students recognise patterns
Pattern recognition is on the one hand easy, while recognition of genuine patterns is
complex. Human brains are wired to find patterns where none exist. This quality of the human brain may have held the early human in good stead. Early humans may have thought, “Ben and Sushma both ate red fruits and died. I should avoid all red fruits.” This type of anecdotal and conservative pattern recognition probably helped early humans to survive. However, even today – so many centuries later – we have a remarkably similar brain which thinks it sees patterns only based on anecdotal evidence. We still think that toast always falls buttered side down or that traffic signals are always red when we are in a hurry.
This is part 3 of a series of blogs to enumerate habits essential to building scientific temper in students. You can read our blog on making observations here and on noting observations here. This week we focus on recognising patterns.
Here are four tips that may help to get students to recognise patterns.
1. Encourage sorting of traits
Once kids observe something and make a note of their observations, encourage them to look for common traits in their notes. Teachers can help scaffold this by structuring the worksheet in a way that sorting traits becomes easy for students. For example, if your objective is that students contrast the traits of animals found in the cold with the traits of animals found in the warm regions, just create a worksheet with two columns – one for traits of animals from cold regions, the other for animals from warm regions.
2. Ask questions that generalise
To encourage students to find patterns, ask them questions that make them think about generalisations. For example: Do all trees have green leaves? Do all trees have large leaves while all small plants have small leaves? These questions will encourage students to look at general patterns.
3. Make pattern recognition a part of daily conversations
Daily patterns of the Sun or the clock are straightforward patterns to make students aware of simple patterns. Music is also a great way to expose students to non-visual patterns.
4. Ask students to predict what happens next.
One of the strongest ways to get students to recognise patterns is to ask them to predict what happens next. The simplest activity would be to put blocks of the three colours in a repeating pattern and ask the kid which block should come next. An example for older students would be to ask them what they predict would be the fur colour of an animal that lives in the Arctic.
One important aspect of pattern recognition is the understanding and acknowledgement that human brains are going to fall for what is known as cognitive bias – our brain sees patterns that reinforce our beliefs. Being aware of this helps in checking in with ourselves if the patterns we are seeing are general or just due to a bias.
STEM projects and activities in unboxED always include pattern recognition activities that tie in with the larger objective of the project.
unboxED offers the child and educator resources to build a growth mindset while exploring Literacy and STEM concepts through conversations and creation, and letting kids be kids. These products have been built keeping in mind the academic and cognitive skills needed at various stages of the child’s development.