Teaching Patterns with Playful Bath Shapes

Do you get “why” questions often from kids?

Differentiation is the foundation of learning. Curiosity comes in the form of “Why is that different?” And right behind it is “Why is that the same?”

So patterns – and the lack of patterns – are essential in the development of a child.

The picture below is a collection of Discovery Toys (not all of them because they live in a house with a 19mo child).

While in the tub, I encourage Daughter to see which ones are the same color. You can label the bathtub tiles with soap crayons so you can discuss the patterns more easily. Use the Cartesian Coordinate plane or Excel cell names like I did in Photoshop.
Bathtub Grid

Here are some things to talk about to encourage pattern discovery and learning. Or click here to download this as a printable MSWord Document.

  • Which shapes are similar? Which are congruent?
  • Which shapes are kind of the same (similar, but not in the official math sense of “similar”)
  • Put shapes together that “go together” – these could be same shape, color, “feel” (like B6 and B7 are both angled).
  • Compare shape A5 to the shapes A3, A4, A6, A7 and A8.
  • What do cells B3 and B8 have in common?
  • How are C3 and C4 different?
  • What’s in common in cells A2 and B2?
  • How are shapes C1 and C2 different?
  • How are C2 and B3 similar?


gate detail
Image by lovestruck. via Flickr

And then look at the world!

When you’re out of the tub, make sure to encourage observations – of everything. For something like the gate trim in the picture you can ask questions like:

  • What is similar?
  • What pieces are different?
  • Do you see spots that are kind of the same but mirror imaged?
  • If you were to make this symmetric, what other parts would you have to add to it?

Have fun. See patterns. Enjoy the discovery!

Download the activity questions here.



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