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Mathematical concepts are often difficult for young children to understand in the way that older children and adults can. While children are still young, the only things that hold their attention are creative pursuits and play. When children are engaged in play and a teacher brings in a mathematical approach to solve a problem within the game, children exhibit an impressive mathematical capacity.

When children are involved with mathematical concepts in groups, the different possible paths to solution lead them to discuss the various methods and learn from each other. Children start out in math by counting objects, comparing the sizes of objects, and identifying shapes and patterns. Mathematical comprehension develops in the following ways.

Classification
Children love to put things into different categories like color, shapes, and pictures. Learning to distinguish characteristics and separate items based on quantifying factors is essential. From this stage, children may be asked to count the objects, and understanding what differentiates each piece makes this practice easier.

Comparison of Size
Aligned with the classification practice, comparing sizes is both enjoyable and productive. When applied to lessons, the comparison of object size allows children to learn mathematical concepts such as larger and smaller.

Numbers
Writing numbers and counting are the essential skills that children use to count their toys, objects, family members, and other interesting things. By integrating the mathematical tool with objects and individuals regarded as important to the child (like their family), children are more engaged with the subject material and will leave with a better understanding of the practice.


Patterns and Shapes
Drawing and creating different shapes leads children into the world of geometry. By encouraging tasks that entail the use of geometric shapes in the creation of something else (like a lion made out of triangles, for example), teachers can promote the recognition and integration of shapes in everyday life.

Spatiality
Drawing and playing to determine the location and direction of one object compared to another. Using perspective tactics in art class and playing physical games that require a degree of coordination and spatial difference, a child can learn to recognize how the world changes based on where they are and how they see; this is effective as a basic introduction to subjects like physics, which rely heavily on math.

When children play with these concepts, they can later have a foundation on which to elaborate upon. While this is not a guarantee, it is useful for teachers and parents to expose children to basic mathematical concepts through their play.

The teacher can promote math through play in a number of ways.

Careful Observation

When the teacher notices children referring to size, shapes, colors, or numbers, they can expand the game that is already taking place in that direction. Building off of a child’s idea and tying it back into the subject material is a teacher’s responsibility when it comes to utilizing play in this way.

Careful Intervention

Teachers should carefully introduce concepts to children during the process of the game without intervening too much. It should not be the teacher’s priority to force difficult subjects or concepts onto their students but rather to facilitate the learning process naturally. If a child discovers something that relates to an important concept, the teacher may offer additional vocabulary or tactics to add to the play.

Discussing and Clarifying

Children can argue over the observations they each have. It is good to have open discussions with them and clarify why different children are seeing different results. With mathematical lessons, allowing children to identify their methods, mistakes, and confusions will help encourage a community of collaboration and learning.


Though math may not be the first subject brought to mind when considering play-based learning, it certainly can be done. Understanding the benefits of teaching math through play and integrating useful activities can help improve a child’s understanding and appreciation of mathematics.