### On Pattern-Avoiding Partitions

#### Abstract

A *set partition of size $n$* is a collection of disjoint blocks $B_1,B_2,\ldots$, $B_d$ whose union is the set $[n]=\{1,2,\ldots,n\}$. We choose the ordering of the blocks so that they satisfy $\min B_1 < \min B_2 < \cdots < \min B_d$. We represent such a set partition by a *canonical sequence* $\pi_1,\pi_2,\ldots,\pi_n$, with $\pi_i=j$ if $i\in B_j$. We say that a partition $\pi$ *contains* a partition $\sigma$ if the canonical sequence of $\pi$ contains a subsequence that is order-isomorphic to the canonical sequence of $\sigma$. Two partitions $\sigma$ and $\sigma'$ are *equivalent*, if there is a size-preserving bijection between $\sigma$-avoiding and $\sigma'$-avoiding partitions.

We determine all the equivalence classes of partitions of size at most $7$. This extends previous work of Sagan, who described the equivalence classes of partitions of size at most $3$.

Our classification is largely based on several new infinite families of pairs of equivalent patterns. For instance, we prove that there is a bijection between $k$-noncrossing and $k$-nonnesting partitions, with a notion of crossing and nesting based on the canonical sequence. Our results also yield new combinatorial interpretations of the Catalan numbers and the Stirling numbers.