Effects of Figural and Numerical Presentation Formats on Growing Pattern Performance


  • Marta K. Mielicki Orcid
  • Charlies J. Fitzsimmons Orcid
  • Lauren H. Woodbury
  • Hannah Marshal
  • Dake Zhang
  • Ferdinand D. Rivera
  • Clarissa A. Thompson Orcid


Prior work exploring preschool-aged children’s reasoning with repeating patterns has shown that patterning ability is an important predictor of math achievement; however, there is limited research exploring older children’s growing pattern task performance. The current study tested whether presentation format impacts performance on growing pattern problems, and whether the effects of presentation format extend to transfer word problems for which no patterns are provided. Sixth grade students were randomly assigned to complete several growing pattern tasks in one of three presentation formats (figures, sequences of values, or tables of values), and later completed transfer story problems with no figures, sequences, or tables provided. Findings suggest that presenting growing patterns as figures can benefit performance, although these benefits may depend on both pattern type and task. No differences were observed in performance on transfer problems, likely because students rarely spontaneously generated figures. Additional exploratory analyses suggest that performance on growing pattern problems may be related to both standardized math ability and fraction task performance, whereas inhibitory control may only be related to performance for specific patterning tasks. These findings have implications for educators because describing/expressing patterns is critical to algebra and higher-level mathematics.