Overview: Understanding that patterns often include rules and these can be seen in a variety of ways, including through art, music, and dance through Irish Washerwoman Rules.

Grades: 3-5  |  Content Areas: Math and Dance

If you’re looking for an activity for St. Patrick’s Day, this lesson comes at just the right time.  With celebrations like these, there is often a tricky line to walk when it comes to showcasing the actual history and culture behind the event and getting caught up in the fun, but not always accurate, “traditions”. In today’s lesson, we’re showcasing a traditional Irish Jig (which you can use as a way discuss the regional music, art and dance of Ireland) as an avenue for exploring rules within patterns in math.



The Irish Washerwoman is a traditional Irish Jig – musically and as a dance – that contains specific mathematical patterns.  As I was researching this, I was actually surprised to find that there is also a knitting pattern that is used which visually represents the dance and music patterns.

Also interesting is that as patterns become more complex in grades 4 and 5, so do the rules associated with them.  For instance, if you have a pattern of “add 3” and you start on the number one, your rule is that each number in the sequence will alternate between odd and even (1, 4, 7, 10, etc).

This is also seen in the dance, music and art of the Irish Washerwoman jig.  So using the concept of rules in patterns to create a new dance choreography for the traditional jig made perfect sense!

As we look for ways to authentically celebrate Irish heritage this St. Patrick’s Day, let’s look beyond the rainbow and pot of gold.  Let’s really capture students’ imaginations through dance, music and a little bit of math.