Ann, Brad, Carol, …

One of my favourite open questions we present to teachers:

Extend the pattern Ann, Brad, Carol, … , in as many ways as you can.

That’s it. Simple, but brings out some big ideas.

So what’s next? Daniel gets a lot of early votes: starts with D, male, six letters. At some point, the increasing pattern–start at three letters and add one each time–becomes challenging. Take Elizabeth. Starts with E? Check. Female? Check. Seven letters? Crap. Extending the pattern in this way eventually means hyphenated names.

Wait; was it any of those names with a “Lynn” after it?

After exhausting Ann, Brad, Carol, … as an increasing pattern–Eleanor!–teachers get creative with repeating patterns.

For example, looking at one attribute:

  • Aaron, Blake, Caleb (ABC)
  • Olivia, Jackson, Isabella (female-male-female)
  • Max, Liam, Jacob (3-4-5)

Looking at two or more attributes:

  • Andrew, Brooklyn, Christopher (ABC & female-male)
  • Ava, Bono, Chloe (ABC & female-male-female & 3-4-5)

What if Ann-Brad-Carol wasn’t the core of the pattern?

  • Ann, Brad, Carol, Connor, Amy, Bryn, Caden, Carter (ABCC & 3-4-5-6)

A different attribute:

  • Ann, Brad, Carol, Elijah, Genevieve (1-1-2-3-5 vowels)

Not mathy enough for you? Remember, not all teachers will have a positive attitude towards mathematics. This is a safe icebreaker. You can always follow it up with the mathier “Extend the pattern 5, 10, 15, … in as many ways as you can.”

The big idea? Patterns involve something that repeats. Sometimes items repeat, sometimes its the rule that repeats.

Ann, Brad, Carol, … can focus teachers/students on another big idea: the way you show information can make patterns easier to see. Moving from names to SET, spot the pattern in the photos below:



When I last posed the Ann, Brad, Carol, … problem, I encouraged teachers to rearrange the names to highlight patterns. One teacher connected this to 100 charts–an aha moment for her.

Big ideas above paraphrased from Marian Small’s Big Ideas.

This is part of this.