In preschool classrooms, you may observe children enthusiastically counting collections of erasers, small toy animals, colored cotton balls, and buttons, then represent their counts on paper—often by drawing the objects or a circle to represent each item and placing the objects on their representations to ensure an accurate count.
They may seem like they are just playing, participants in a silly game of little significance. This could not be more untrue.
Play versus academic skills: It’s not a zero-sum game.
Did the children engaged in these activities know they were participating in math lessons?
Probably not. But they were indeed learning math through what I refer to as playful instruction. As part of our curriculum, we are constantly using everyday items to count, sort, and label their physicality.
For one week in December, we talked about the shapes that make up snowflakes. We discussed triangles, hexagon, squares, and circles and their relevance to the snowflake shape. We initially matched pieces of a snowflake into a pre-made puzzle and then cut up paper to construct our very own!