Arts Integration Lesson: Irish Washerwoman Rules

By | 2018-02-23T11:49:49+00:00 March 8th, 2016|

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

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

With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, 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!

irish washerwoman rules



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.

Susan Riley is the founder and President of She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.

Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.

Email Susan

Leave A Comment