Math Patterns in Nature

Empowered Learner


There are patterns in everything we see. In kindergarten, students begin to learn to recognize basic shapes like circles, ovals, squares and rectangles. They will learn that the shapes often form patterns that can be orderly and sequential and others that might appear to be random. 

They will learn to identify these patterns in inanimate and animate objects. Around the classroom, they learn that the boards are rectangles and the tables are square or round. In nature they will notice the spots on a giraffe or the stripes on the tiger. They will notice that plants and tree have patterns too. 

Students will enjoy taking digital pictures of nature and finding the mathematical patterns. They will create a slide show together of the pictures they have taken and identify the patterns in each one. 

Students will:

  • Be able to identify basic shapes and patterns. 
  • Be able to take a digital picture.
  • Understand that everything is a shape. 
  • Understand that most things have a pattern or form a pattern. 

Vocabulary Words:

  1. Shape: The shape of an object, a person, or an area is the appearance of their outside edges 

  2. Pattern: A pattern is a repeating design. 

To prepare for this lesson:

  • Gather books about patterns and nature. There are many books that combine shapes, patterns and nature. Here are some notable books. 
    • Best nature books for children
    • Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban
    • Bees, Snails & Peacock Tails by Betsy Franco and Steve Jenkins
    • Elmer by David McKee, $11.69
    • Busy Bugs by Jayne Harvey
  • Have enough digital cameras or devices with cameras for groups of students or 1:1. 
  • Create a slide show in PowerPoint (Office) or Google Slides to upload the images from the student devices. 

See the Accommodations Page and Charts on the 21things4students website in the Teacher Resources. 

Directions for this activity:

  1. Review shapes and patterns with the students. 
  2. Read one of the nature pattern books to the students. 
  3. Show the students how to take a picture if they have not used a digital camera or mobile device.
  4. Take the students outside to take pictures. 
  5. Group the students into groups of two-three if a large class and have them take one-two pictures. If you have a small group and have 1:1 devices, have each student take one picture. 
  6. Load the pictures into a slide show once the pictures have been taken. 
  7. Using the slideshow, go through each picture and have the students identify the patterns in each picture. 

Different options for assessing the students:

  • Observations
  • Check for understanding
  • Use a rubric with the students and check off how the students have identified the patterns. 

MITECS: Michigan adopted the "ISTE Standards for Students" called MITECS (Michigan Integrated Technology Competencies for Students) in 2018.

Empowered Learner
1c. Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

Device: PC, Chromebook, Mac, iPad 

Browser: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, ALL

Best Nature Books for Children

Google Slides

Microsoft Office 


Students will draw the patterns that they have identified in the pictures they have taken. 

Students will learn about patterns in math. 

Students will learn more about animals and their patterns.  

This task card was created by Melissa White, 21Things Project Manager, REMC Association of Michigan, April 2018. Updated October 2023.