What Comes Next? Pattern Recognition

What Comes Next? Pattern Recognition


English: Clock in Bad Salzdetfurth, Germany, B...
Clock in Bad Salzdetfurth, Germany, Badenburger Strasse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the common tests for software engineers is to see if they can spot patterns. This is also a fun game to share with grandchildren.


  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil


  • Talk about the fact that there are lots of sequences that everyone uses
  • Examples: the alphabet (A, B, C, D… a, b, c, d, e….) numbers (1, 2, 3, 4…)
  • Write out a sequence of letters or numbers and ask your grandchild to tell you the next character in the string
  • Examples:
    • Roman numerals: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X. Stop at any point when you are writing the sequence and and ask your grandchild what the next number is
    • First letters of days of the week: S, M, T, W, T, F, S (Sunday, Monday…) Stop at any point and ask your grandchild what the next letter is
    • First letters of months of the year: J, F, M, A, M, J, J, A, S, O, N, D (January, February, March…) Stop at any point and ask for the next letter. To change it up, start the sequence over again and then stop, so your grandchild may see the end of the sequence and that it is starting over
    • First letters of the numbers in sequence: O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, N, T (one, two, three, four…)
    • First letters of coins in order of value: P, N, D, Q,, H, D (penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, dollar)
    • State codes in alphabetic order: AK, AL, AR, CA, CO (Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado…)
    • First letters of holidays in the year: N, V, E, M, F, L, H, T, C (New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter…)
    • Optional: Invite your grandchild to think of other things that come in a sequence and see if they can fool you by writing the beginning of the sequence and let you figure out the next letter or symbol in the sequence. Examples: the first letter of the first names of everyone in the family by age, the first letter of the names of their pets, by age, the first letter of the names of the flowers in their yard, the colors of the rainbow in order, the first letter of the names of the streets they pass on the way from home to school.

What Should Happen?

At some point, your grandchild will start to understand which sequence they are looking at and will supply the next letter or number in the sequence. And, if they start to supply their own sequences, you will learn more about how they see their world.

This is a game that can easily be played in the car or while waiting in line anywhere.

Why Is This Useful?

People are very good at pattern recognition because it helps us simplify a complicated world.

Being able to recognize and create patterns is a fundamental skill in computer programming. Tests for aptitude in programming often include pattern recognition questions. This is because computers work best on pattern recognition, repeating a set of instructions every time they encounter a specific set of patterns. Understanding this, computer programmers need to supply those patterns for the computer and understand what the computer is going to do with those instructions.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”



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Comments (5 )

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  1. JeriWB says:

    Working with patterns is always fun, whether in math or with language. Finding patterns is a great way to tie together many different subjects.

  2. I always wondered about those questions on aptitude tests and such.

  3. Pattern recognition is a very important thing for everyone to do. It really helps sharpen the mind. 🙂

  4. carolcovin says:

    And, it's fun. I'm always looking for fun things to do with grandchildren while waiting in line.