Introducing a New Site: Visual Patterns

Michael's Math Mistakes, Andrew's Estimation 180, and Dan's latest Graphing Stories made me think about creating a site that features visual patterns in which students are invited to figure out an equation for each one. If you've been following my blog or know me in person, then I think this whole pattern thing seems like a natural extension of what I'd love to share.

I don't know of an existing site that has what I have in mind. 

But the ideas lie restless in my head because the idiot half of meself does not know how to create a functional site where visitors can click here and there and do this and that. Nor do I have the resources to make it happen.

Well, here's the site

I have more concerns and questions than answers:
  1. The site needs its own domain name. [12/27: Done. Site is at]
  2. I don't want this to be "my" site because a. that's ridiculous and b. I simply cannot do this alone. I'm hoping it will become OUR site.
  3. That said, the site needs you and your students to submit more patterns and be credited for your work. Yes, I have accumulated a bunch over the years, but I get bored easily with my own stuff.
  4. Can we get patterns in live action? More compelling/perplexing images? 
  5. What do you think of the handout for students to fill in?
I do believe it's a good thing. And I know with your critical feedback and guidance, this site will serve its purpose of helping students develop algebraic thinking through visual patterns.

Thank you so much for reading!

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  • December 27, 2012 5:23 AM James Dunseith wrote:
    This is absolutely fantastic - thanks for starting this up. I'm going to brainstorm some ideas for how to get kids involved. We would certainly love to participate.
    Reply to this
    1. December 27, 2012 7:54 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Hooray!! Thank you, James. I can't wait to feature the kids' patterns.
      Reply to this
  • December 27, 2012 5:46 AM David Wees wrote:
    Terrific idea. I have some patterns I can share. Maybe you can use a DropItTo.Me account or something similar? Or give us an email address to send our examples to?
    Reply to this
    1. December 27, 2012 7:57 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thank you, David! Yes, at the bottom of the instructions page (whose link is at the top of each pattern) is my email address. I better stick with email for now, setting up one new account of anything will auto-set my hair on fire. Not pretty.
      Reply to this
  • December 27, 2012 9:38 AM Katie wrote:
    Cool idea! I'm not sure I understand the patterns with positive and negative numbers, though. Should the tables and equations have three variables? Or should the positive and negative numbers be added together?
    Reply to this
    1. December 27, 2012 9:52 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Hi Katie! Great question. I was thinking of just the value v of each step n when a pattern has + and - numbers. For example, the equation for Pattern #11 would be: v = 2n-1

      Thank you, Katie!

      Reply to this
      1. December 27, 2012 1:04 PM Katie wrote:
        Makes sense -- thanks for the response! And I just emailed you a few patterns to add to the site.
        Reply to this
  • December 27, 2012 12:52 PM Jim P wrote:
    Love it!

    I am interested in the 4th question that you posed:

    "Can we get patterns in live action? More compelling/perplexing images?"

    I'll keep that on the back of my mind and maybe come up with something in the future.

    Happy holidays!

    Reply to this
    1. December 28, 2012 10:59 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thanks, Jimmy! Happy Holidays to you!
      Reply to this
  • December 28, 2012 8:06 AM Elaine Watson wrote:
    I love the idea, especially of students coming up with their own patterns to submit.

    I was unable to access the "site"...just got an error message.

    I checked out your earlier post and loved the conversation between you and the student who had 4*14 for a picture, but had 4n-4 for the equation. Even though it "worked", there was no connection between the image and the equation. You nudged him in the right direction. Great teaching move! Practice Standards in action (abbreviated form):
    #1 Make sense and persevere
    #2 Reason abstractly & quantitatively
    #3 Construct viable arguments
    #6 Attend to precision
    #7 Look for structure
    #8 Use repeated reasoning

    Great lesson. I would love to see your rubric. Thanks for sharing and good luck with the site idea!

    PS The mental image of creating a new account auto-setting your hair on fire is hilarious (not that I want to SEE it might just hurt a wee bit!)

    Reply to this
    1. December 28, 2012 10:58 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thanks so much, Elaine. I changed the site's URL to its own at

      I think it's cool that when one lesson can encompass multiple math practices! It's so great to see kids with "different" equations of the same pattern and for them to explain to others how they saw the pattern differently, and it allows for practice of simplifying equations. It's not really a rubric, but in that same post I included the handout of what the kids fill in. The second page shows how the poster will be graded.

      You're so precious to write about the new site on your blog!!! (Thank you)3

      Reply to this
  • December 29, 2012 12:04 AM Andrew wrote:
    Awesome! I'll be on the lookout for opportunities to find/make some of these.

    It'd be nice to have a "random" button for the patterns~

    Reply to this
    1. December 29, 2012 10:25 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Yes, it would be GREAT to have a random button, Andrew! Now, you go make it happen. I think that's how I want to assign the patterns to my kids too, just randomly. But this feature is not available, and I suck at knowing how to create one. Most likely I'll use this site to help me generate a random list

      Looking forward to your patterns on here! Thanks so much, Andrew.

      Reply to this
  • December 29, 2012 8:48 AM Mary Dooms wrote:
    Fabulous idea and creation! Have you considered adding GeoGebra applets for "live action" patterns? Not sure if that's a direction you want to go, but it does offer the site interactivity. I found several applets just by typing "patterns" in the GeoGebraTube search bar. There are varying degrees of complexity depending on the grade level.
    Here are a few I found:


    Sierpinski triangle

    Trapeze Patterns

    Lights Out

    Bouncing Ball

    Exponent Patterns

    Reply to this
    1. December 29, 2012 10:48 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Holy cow, Mary! No, the site is not as fabulous as YOU are with all the links you provided!! I LOVE the Lights Out games, OMG, so addicting. I totally want to include stuff like this -- patterns are everywhere -- I just don't know how to make them. I hope others, including students, will submit their fabulous creations! So I'll include the links in a category by itself. The Snake pattern is cool too. (Trapeze didn't load for me, not sure how that works.)

      Much appreciated, Mary!! 

      Reply to this
  • December 29, 2012 10:48 AM Marsha Ratzel wrote:
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a terrific idea and one that could definitely become something that we all build together.

    I love the idea of student contributed patterns. Maybe giving them your directions and then seeing how easily they can translate it into something they can do.

    Reply to this
    1. December 29, 2012 11:09 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      " that could definitely become something that we all build together." Absolutely!! Within 2 days, I already had about 20 patterns submitted from others. Now, I'm waiting for yours and your kids'. Chop chop, Marsha! (By the way, the picture of you holding up the note always warms my heart, so thank you thank you thank you, Marsha.)
      Reply to this
  • December 29, 2012 1:09 PM Joshua Zucker wrote:
    This looks fantastic! Another source I'd recommend is Henri Picciotto and his work with pattern blocks. He had some particularly interesting questions about finding the pattern for both perimeter and area, and how they are related (or what the limits are on one if you know the other, for example). should get you started. I've seen fancy "cars" to make the trains out of, instead of using only single blocks, as well.
    Reply to this
    1. December 29, 2012 2:54 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Oh, I left a comment at Picciotto's blog a few weeks ago -- am definitely a fan. His train pattern lesson is terrific! Thank you, Josh, for pointing it out to me. I featured one of his patterns as Pattern #42

      I think you need to submit one of your own, Josh. The people are insisting. 

      Reply to this
  • January 2, 2013 1:14 PM Sue VanHattum wrote:
    This is great. If it's appropriate for my Discrete class (I'm still figuring out what I'll be teaching them...), it'll be a great resource for me.
    Reply to this
    1. January 2, 2013 9:01 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thanks, Sue. I'm really excited it's out there as a resource, and I'm thrilled that half of them so far already came from others. Speaking of which, I think you should have the Discrete class create the patterns, Sue! 
      Reply to this
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