Forming groups

Implement professional dialogue about early mathematical development through a focus on forming groups in your school or professional learning network using text-based protocols and core thinking routines for leaders.

Purpose of resource

The research snapshot and professional learning activity are part of the K-2 mathematics toolkit. This supports leaders to unpack research with teachers, that underpins the new syllabus.

Target audience

This resource can be used by school leaders to support teachers with effective mathematics syllabus implementation K-2.

When and how to use

The research snapshot and the professional learning activity, ‘Unpacking the evidence base’ slideshow, complement each other and are focused on the same research article. Schools might use these:

  • within whole-school professional learning sessions
  • in stage meetings
  • in professional learning groups.

These may take an hour to implement or can be modified as appropriate. The protocol used to help teachers unpack the evidence can be changed to suit the professional learning context.

Research base

The evidence base for this resource is:


Email questions, comments and feedback about this resource to using the subject line ‘Re mathematics K-2 research toolkits’.

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs – School Excellence Policy and School Excellence Procedure

Alignment to School Excellence Framework – ‘Instructional leadership’ and ‘High expectations culture’ elements in the Leading domain as well as the ‘Learning and development’ and ‘Collaborative practices and feedback’ elements of the Teaching domain.

Alignment with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – 6.2.4 and 6.3.4

Consulted with – Literacy and numeracy team and principal school leadership representatives

Reviewed by – CEYPL director and CSL director

Created/last updated – 06 July 2022

To be reviewed: December 2022

Awareness of patterns and structure in early mathematical development

Research article – Mulligan J and Mitchelmore M (2009) ‘Awareness of pattern and structure in early mathematical development’, Mathematics Education Research Journal, 21(2):33–49 doi:10.1007/BF0321754

Research snapshot

Virtually all mathematics is based on pattern and structure (Mulligan & Mitchelmore 2009, p. 33)

Overview of research

This research outlines the value of an approach to teaching mathematics in the early years with a focus on pattern and structure. It asserts that students who recognise the structure of mathematical processes and representations acquire deep conceptual understanding (p. 33).

  • a focus on patterns and structure in the early years can help students make connections across mathematical domains (p. 37)
  • students’ awareness of mathematical pattern and structure can be a good indicator of their general level of mathematical achievement (p. 45)
  • awareness of mathematical pattern and structure focuses on deep understanding, rather than procedural skills (p. 45).

Professional discussion and reflection prompts

  • How could you teach mathematics with a greater focus on pattern and structure?
  • Why would this approach to mathematical instruction be beneficial to students?
  • Which mathematical substrands could not be comprehensively taught with a focus on pattern and structure?

Professional learning activity

Awareness of patterns and structure (PPTX 2MB)


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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