Patterns

If we lived on a planet where nothing ever changed, there would be little to do. There would be nothing to figure out. There would be no impetus for science. And if we lived in an unpredictable world, where things changed in random or very complex ways, we would not be able to figure things out. But we live in an in-between universe, where things change, but according to patterns, rules, or as we call them, laws of nature. If I throw a stick up in the air, it always falls down. If the sun sets in the west, it always rises again the next morning in the east. And so it becomes possible to figure things out. We can do science, and with it we can improve our lives.

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A pattern is something that repeats in a predictable way.  Noticing and identifying patterns is fundamental to understanding the world around us.  It is the patterns in human behavior that teach us how to interact with each other and help us to determine social norms.  The patterns in the natural world help us to predict the weather, changes in populations, and the pathway of planets in the heavens.  We use patterns as evidence to support theories and explanations, to analyze data, to make mathematical models, and to describe cause and effect relationships.  To be successful, scientists need to be able to see the patterns that exist, and describe those patterns so that others can see the patterns as well. 

The chart below describes the expectations for students at each grade level, as described by the Next Generation Science Standards.  Middle school students are expected to understand and demonstrate mastery of each of the first three columns by the end of their 8th grade year.

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Writing and Speaking about Patterns

Students often struggle with how to discuss patterns in their writing, or when speaking with their peers. 

Here are some sentence frames to help with the discussion:

  • What patterns exist when __________________ ?

  • How does_____________ affect the patterns found when _________________?

  • The evidence shows a pattern.  As ________________ increases, __________________ also increases.

  • The evidence shows that as ___________________ increases, __________________ decreases.  This pattern shows that a relationship exists.

  • The evidence does not show a clear pattern.  No conclusion can be made.