Matchstick Patterns

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Aims and objectives
The aim of this activity is to allow pupils to create their own matchstick shapes and patterns then write about them in mathematical terms. The patterns can be created by either number progressions or geometric shapes.

Previous knowledge
As this is an ‘exploratory’ activity students can approach it at whatever level they feel comfortable with. The supporting worksheets provide teacher guidance on a range of possible tasks for students at all levels of ability.

In the classroom
Students can use this activity to create their own series of patterns and work out the relationship between each pattern. They can also use the endless pile of matchsticks to create their own shapes e.g. they could try making a hexagon and then adding another hexagon to it. When they have made their shape they can print the worksheet and copy the pattern onto it.

The activity may be linked to a problem that you have set. For example, give the pupils two members of a series on the whiteboard then ask them to create the third and fourth members on the screen. They then have to explain the rule (in words). Alternatively the teacher can state a relationship and then ask the pupils to create the pattern using the matchsticks.

Although students are likely to be working independently or in small groups using this activity, if an interactive whiteboard is available then it becomes a really effective way for a teacher to demonstrate or model the activities.

Support materials description: Resources type:
The main matchstick_patterns.pdf contains a ‘manual’ version of the activity where pupils can used spent matches to create their own patterns and sequences. If printed onto stiff paper and then laminated the worksheets become a wipe-clean reusable resource. If the worksheet is printed onto an acetate then it can be used by teachers with an OHP to demonstrate or set patterns for students to solve.


Curriculum references
Mathematics – KS3:
Ma2 1i, j; 6a-c
Ma3 1c, f, j

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