Thinking Skills Guide Preface Introduction to the Model Scope & Sequence How to Use the Model


A skill used to identify and verify recurring
organizational arrangements in numeric series.

Student Definition
Noticing number patterns.

Repeating number series, Number order, Number patterning

Why Teach
The process of pattern recognition facilitates learning and significantly enhances academic performance by enabling students to predict outcomes, to organize the world around them, and to establish relationships for meaning.


  • Analyzing math problems to introduce operations
  • Constructing a house
  • Designing art work
  • Determining numeric probability
  • Observing nature
  • Planning for retirement
  • Planning to purchase a home
  • Predicting a recession
  • Predicting g.p.a.
  • Projecting weight loss or gain
  • Solving math puzzles
  • Understanding the national debt

Students will be able to:

  • Name and give examples of different types of recurring numeric patterns (see "Background Information on Numeric Patterns").
  • Recognize numeric patterns in their environment.

  • Metacognitive Objective
    Students will be able to:
  • Reflect upon their thinking processes when using this skill and examine its effectiveness.

Skill Steps

  1. Analyze the relationship among adjacent numbers. Look for a recurring pattern.
  2. Hypothesize a pattern structure.
  3. Test your hypothesis (see "Background Information on Numeric Patterns").
  4. If a pattern does not appear, look for a different pattern (see "Background Information on Numeric Patterns").
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 as necessary.

  6. Metacognitive Step
  7. Reflect upon the thinking process used when performing this skill and examine its effectiveness:
    • What worked?
    • What did not work?
    • How might you do it differently next time?


  • Debrief - review and evaluate process, using both cognitive and affective domains to achieve closure of the thinking activity.
  • Metacognition - the act of consciously considering one's own thought processes by planning, monitoring, and evaluating them (thinking about your thinking).
  • Pattern - an organizational arrangement
  • Fibonacci series - see "Background Information on Numeric Patterns".

Possible Procedure for Teaching the Skill
General Strategy

  1. Define the skill and discuss its importance.
  2. Introduce and model a repetitive numeric pattern from "Background Information."
  3. Practice the pattern.
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 with each numeric pattern from "Background Information on Numeric Patterns," providing activities that allow discrimination among patterns learned.
  5. Debrief: Discuss techniques students used to arrive at conclusions. Include both triumphs and tragedies (facilitations and roadblocks).
    Note: A general strategy can be given to students that will help them identify which type of series is used (these are explained, in detail, in "Background Information on Numeric Patterns."
    • If the series increases or decreases rapidly, look for a multiplication, division or exponential series (the V technique).
    • If the series does not increase or decrease rapidly, apply the next level of the V technique, looking for a solution.
    • If no solution can be found, look for a combined addition and multiplication series.
    • If no solution can be found, look for a Fibonacci series.
    • If no solution can be found, look for another pattern.
Primary Procedure
  1. Define repetitive numeric patterning and discuss its purpose.
  2. Place ten piles of beans in a line; the first pile having one bean, the second having two beans, the third having three beans... and so on up to ten beans in the last pile.
  3. Ask students to count the beans in the first and second pile to compare the numbers.
  4. Repeat #3 with the second and third pile, the third and fourth pile, etc.
  5. Explain to students that adding one bean each time creates a repetitive numeric pattern.
  6. Tell students that being able to identify patterns can help them learn math.
  7. Go through skill steps with students and show them how skill steps apply to figuring out the bean pattern.
  8. Repeat bean procedure with a +2 pattern. Help students apply the skill steps to figure out the pattern.
  9. Debrief students on the process, the definition, and the importance of this skill.

Integrating the Skill into the Curriculum

Understanding of non-linguistic recurring numeric patterns can be facilitated by using the overhead projector and charts showing the numbers 1 to 100 in boxes on the chart. Involve the class in finding and describing numerical patterns on the chart. Begin by covering the chart with a blank transparency and then marking all the even numbers with a blue dot. Ask the class to explain how you arrived at the resulting pattern. Depending on their experiences, they may explain it as "plus two" or "even numbers." Remove the marked transparency. On a clean transparency, mark in yellow the numbers in intervals of three. After discussion, overlay the two sheets and note that +2 and +3 addition patterns emerge. Mark these points with a red square, and ask students if they can discover a new pattern. This can be continued with the class, and then with clean, duplicated copies of the 1-to-100 chart allow students to construct their own patterns. Have them compare and check identified patterns with fellow students.

Introduce and teach recurring numeric pattern recognition both as an interesting intellectual skill and as a test-taking device. Teach students the numeric problem-solving processes and the common types of problems they are likely to encounter. Ask students to create problems using two or three of these common types plus one or two types that they make up. Have students exchange their "made-up" problems and try to solve each other's.

Using a transparency or ditto of a 1-to-100 chart, blank out a pattern of numbers. Ask students to fill in missing numbers.

Have a student describe the weather (weather chart, calendar).

Background Information

Patterns can be found in all forms of non-linguistic information. The more students can "see" patterns in non-linguistic information, the more they can organize their world. This skill can assist the brain with its natural tendency to organize information into patterns.

The ability to perceive repeating patterns in various settings is important for the learner. Aptitude tests frequently include problems involving numeric patterns. Everyday problems can often be solved by recognizing the recurring patterns within them. Understanding that the environment contains countless examples of obvious and subtle repeating patterns introduces the learner to the elegant nature of our universe.

There are many types of non-linguistic patterns. In this unit we will consider a few of those patterns--those commonly found on aptitude tests and other forms of tests. However, if students are not presented with anything more than this procedure, all they are learning is a relatively sophisticated test-taking technique. The ultimate goal of having students solve number series problems is to have them identify different types of numeric patterns. Students should be encouraged to find other types of patterns in numeric series. We will consider numeric patterns, especially those identified by David Lewis and James Greeene (Thinking Better, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982) as important for aptitude tests.
More Background Information about Numeric Patterns

Additional Resources

Jacobs, Harold R. Mathematics: A Human Endeavor. New York.: W.H. Freeman and Co., 1982. Chapter 2, pp 57-118.

Lewis, David and James Green. Thinking Better. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1982.

Marzano, Robert J. and Daisy E. Arredondo. Tactics for thinking. Colorado: Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory, 1986.

Related Skills

Comparing and Contrasting
Developing Concepts
Generating and Testing Hypotheses
Observing Actively


Recognizing Spatial Patterns
Recognizing Verbal Information Patterns

Thinking Skills Guide - Recognizing Numeric Patterns