So our after school group at the library is going well. Six of the 7 girls have finished at least one preemie hat. (Their hats on the left, Suzie's and mine on the right) We've got a couple of kids who only come every other week, due to Brownies and other obligations, and one week everyone was out sick! It's a great group of girls and it's funny to hear what they end up chatting about each week as they are knitting.
After the kids learn to work in the round and complete their first "basic" hat (by following our pattern) we're asking them to make the same pattern (same number of stitches, same height, same decreases) but to include a stitch pattern.
Here's where the math comes in... if our hat is 42 stitches around, they have to figure out what goes into 42 evenly. They've all learned multiples in math class and even if they don't like math, they have to use it here! So they can pick a multiple of 42 (like 2, 3, 6, 7 etc) and come up with some sort of stitch pattern. Like... k1,p1 or k2,p1 or k3,p3 or k3,p4, or k6,p1... whatever they want as long as it works with the overall number of stitches. Then they make this second hat and concentrate on following their chosen stitch pattern... READING their knitting!
When this hat is completed, they will start a third hat, but in a slightly different size. They get to pick a new number of stitches. It can be a little smaller, or bigger, but they have to understand that the number of stitches DOES have something to do with the height of the hat before the decreases. And there needs to be some sort of a multiple... so that when they get to the decreases, they can follow the basic rules of decreasing, that they've already become accustomed to on hats #1 and #2.
After that, they can learn stripes, colorwork, cables, whatever they want. We could just give them preemie hat patterns to follow, but this way, we're forcing them to think on their own. We're asking them to actually understand WHAT IT IS that they are doing, which in the end, is a great talent for any knitter to have!