Play is frequently associated with younger pupils and less intellectual pursuits, yet it may be an effective method in an unexpected subject like mathematics is recognised for being cold, rational, and severe, yet the discipline is underappreciated for its actual mischievous spirit, which is kept concealed from the rest of the world. Even in the midst of necessary topics, K–12 mathematics curriculum may provide time and space for students to experiment with concepts and ideas.
Much of the research on play as a learning strategy is centred on the early years, especially kindergarten, where it is a widely established educational strategy. At play, young toddlers frequently experience “flow,” an elusive state of mind in which time appears to vanish as they focus completely on what they’re doing, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. More than just the freedom to play is required to achieve this ideal condition in the classroom; teachers must also react to kids’ ideas and help them through topics such as counting and numbers. This form of directed play necessitates making decisions about when and how to provide direct teaching. Allowing pupils to have flexibility while yet providing instruction allows for fruitful play that enables them to better learn complex mathematical ideas.
The most frequent method for including more observing, counting, classifying, and comparing abilities in children’s life is to play math games. Children may learn about how dice function and the principles of chance and probability by playing a boardgame. Children may learn about one-to-one correspondence and sequencing by moving the game piece around the board.
Children must be able to make continual observations and compare different sizes, colours, and forms while playing a block construction game. This is not simply for mathematical reasons, but also because you can’t build a castle if you don’t know what a ball or a cube looks like. Because the ball is round, you can’t stack additional blocks on top of it, and the ball is also circular.
For example, the cube has six sides, each of which is quite sturdy, allowing for easy construction. Children who have trouble recognising and perceiving mathematical characteristics in their activities are more likely to struggle with arithmetic later in school, according to studies. As a result, play and games should be used to support these skills in early infancy.
INCORPORATE AND EMBRACE PLAY
Play is inextricably linked to human nature, and we may use it to learn. Playing and thinking are not mutually exclusive. Working on intriguing issues may be a catalyst for flow, despite the fact that play is typically linked with turning off thinking and surrendering oneself to a joyful activity. There’s a point, usually about 30 minutes into working on a fascinating topic, when thoughts start to turn into solutions.
Create a culture where mathematical topics are debated and reasoned through rather than merely calculations on a page. Math training is moved away from rote memorization and toward a more broader knowledge of mathematics via play. As they work through challenges, encourage children to discuss, think, reason, and wonder. Even for elementary subjects, instilling a feeling of curiosity engages kids in a playful manner.
Simple tactics such as turn-and-talk can foster collaborative and enjoyable learning. Mathematical subjects may be made more enjoyable by including prompts into the everyday teaching practise. Visual Patterns, Fraction Talks, and Estimation180 are just a few examples of websites that make mathematical subjects fun.
PUSH FORWARD INTO THE UNKNOWN
Math is full of unexpected twists and turns that may be both intriguing and enjoyable. In many cases, there is no one solution path or technique. Be open to learning new things about how your pupils think about and solve challenges.
In the classroom, a culture of joyful curiosity may be fostered by being open to the unexpected. A positive and optimistic perspective characterises a fun mathematics learner—elements of a mindset that aids pupils in better grasping complicated subjects.
Accept the clutter that comes with the problem-solving process. It’s difficult to think clearly. Things don’t always go our way the first time. Course modifications, changes, and even whole work transformations are required.
Keep an eye on your kids while they work. Where are the stumbling blocks? What are their strategies for dealing with certain challenges? While you’re working, pay attention to your own self-talk and consider how your pupils could be challenged. While solutions are vital, so is the process that leads to them. While your pupils are working, you may listen to them and chat to them. Teachers may help pupils to engage with big and exciting mathematical topics by using play to create free spaces for thinking.
APPLY DURABLE METHODS
Snap cubes, pattern blocks, and relational rods are examples of physical or digital manipulatives that can assist students in bringing mathematics to life, a process known as representation. To assist pupils to practise their basic abilities, teachers can utilise decks of cards, dice, or counting items.
Younger pupils, for example, can practise multiplication facts up to 6 times 6 by rolling two dice and multiplying the outcomes. Older students can learn integer operations with decks of cards in which the red suits are negative and the black suits are positive. Designate one day a week for deliberate practise utilising games for young kids developing fundamental numerical abilities.
Mathematical principles may be presented visually in a fun way. Give kids a can lid or other round item, some string, and a measuring tape to figure out the circumference and diameter connection.
Students can experiment with more complex thoughts and ideas when they use real or digital materials. Deeper participation is possible in a playful setting because of the flexibility it provides.