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Learning through Play – mathematical development

This clip from Learning through Play looks at problem solving, reasoning and numeracy and how this may be nurtured through play.

Good for looking at

  • Mathematical development
  • Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy
  • Learning through play
  • Effective adult support
  • The three year old

Mathematical development

Problem solving, reasoning & numeracy

This includes quite a number of key skills and is more than just an understanding of numbers and calculation. Some of the skills it includes are s: sorting, matching, counting, making connection, Identifying patterns and relationships and problem solving.

Through activities that are enjoyable and stem from their own interests, children begin to explore mathematical concepts in ways that have meaning for them. Children’s free flow play often involves problem solving and practicing and refining spatial skills, which allow them to make connections, identify patterns and build on previous experience. We see this when Seb is playing with his blocks and cars on the carpet, in the sand tray pretending to be a baker, and when he playing with dough in the kitchen or with planks in the garden. He is using and exploring the words and vocabulary associated with mathematical language, but in ways that have meaning and make good sense to him. He is also inventive in the way he uses words, looking for what he calls, ‘a partner’ for a brick that he wants to identically match to another to create the shape he needs. This is evidence of his understanding of the concept and his ability to explain it to others.

Look out for examples of Seb’s mathematical awareness in other Learning through Play video clips.

Questions for reflection

  • What mathematical concepts does Seb use while he’s playing with the bricks? What other concepts might block play develop?
  • What other daily routines or activities are good for promoting mathematical awareness?
  • How does Seb’s play relate to the mathematical skills he will develop as he gets older?
  • Do you have anxieties about maths? How far do you think your early experiences contributed to your confidence with numbers and maths in general?
  • Are there some aspects of mathematical play you might have missed out on? How do you think you could make up for that now? Would it improve your confidence or ability?
  • What do you understand by the term ‘problem solving’? Look for other examples of Seb problem solving in the other clips in the learning through play series.

Useful reading

Thinking and Learning About Maths in the Early Years (Nursery World /Routledge Essential Guides for Early Years Practitioners) Linda Pound

More Than Numbers – Children developing mathematical thinking by Carole Skinner (2002) Early education