Using Common Objects to Understand Patterns in Tables

patterns pin

Good grief!  As if adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing weren’t enough, now the kids have to put these patterns on tables???  Yup!  It seems daunting at times, but there are many great ways to make this skill concrete and help kids understand relationships on tables!  It can even be FUN if you let it!

When teaching my students about tables I like to start by bringing real items into class to use while making tables!  For example, I bring in toy cars and let the kids play for a minute or two before getting serious!


When we get serious, we use the cars to count wheels and make tables!  As we make the tables we discuss the relationship between the number of cars and wheels.

pattern cars x 4

After creating and discussing our table I like to create a table with the OPPOSITE action so that my students can see that relationships and patterns can be worked both ways.  I discuss the connection between fact families and remind students that addition is the opposite of subtraction and multiplication is the opposite of division.

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This same process can be used with all sorts of real life & concrete examples!  It is a good idea to bring in several items and work on making tables with the class as you progress through the unit.


These can be used to guide quick class warm ups before a more structured pencil/paper or standard curriculum problem.  My main point for bringing things in to put on tables is to help students see the real life relationship to help make analysis and test prep problems more “real” and therefore less complicated!

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And eventually we need to move from making tables to completing and analyzing premade tables!  When working with tables, you can use manipulatives like colored counters or even toys and objects to “act out” the pattern to make the problems less abstract at first.

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I find it helpful to review the previous activity of making a chart about cars to help students see that each relationship can be analyzed in two different ways… For example, looking at the problem above, students see that the pattern from # of tickets to total cost is multiplying by 7, but it is important that students also see that the inverse is also true:  the total cost to the # of tickets.  I have my students label both relationships BEFORE they solve questions about the table.


If you are looking for notes and practice problems, you can check out these resources on my TpT page.

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4 thoughts on “Using Common Objects to Understand Patterns in Tables

  1. Mrs. Kirk, I needed a teacher like you when I was a kid! For those students like myself, to whom mathematical patterns did not instantly congeal into perfect sense, I thank you from the bottom of my math-hating heart! You mention helping ‘students see the real life relationship to help make analysis and test prep problems more “real”’, and I want to echo this from the rooftops to any other math teachers who might be within hearing distance! Yes, please.

    Thanks for this great post. I’m getting ready to introduce multiplication facts to my oldest and I will be sure to pull in toy cars for patterning purposes at the beginning. 🙂


    • Thank you Christina! I have fun coming up with ways to make the math more meaningful. I hope your son likes using toy cars for his math!


  2. These are such great ideas for teaching patterns in tables. When I was a student, I needed concrete examples to be able to understand any concept. I wish I had a teacher with these kinds of creative, hands-on lessons, then math might not have been my worst subject. Love how you are bringing math into the real world, and letting students explore these concepts with concrete objects and examples. Thank you for sharing!


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