Developing and playing games with young children allows educators to naturally embed concepts, methods, build developing skills, and new vocabulary of mathematics into the play.
Playing, creating, and adapting games that involve mathematics has grown to be a valuable part of our practice, especially since we know that all learners need different things from us in terms of support and instruction. Some children are learning to recognize and represent numbers...while other children are decomposing or adding!
Educators are able to create, adapt, and extend simple games to meet the needs of all children. Playing alongside children or in the context of a small group also invites educators to learn about the children's growth, knowledge and understanding. We play a crucial role in the games and it is often our observation, prompting, and guidance that deepens the play.
Games provide an opportunity for children to verbalize their thinking. Educators can listen in to the language being used in dialogue and can further prompt children to verbalize their thinking behind decision making while playing. Through continued exposure and exploration, young children grow in their ability to clearly and concisely explain their thinking. In doing so, children solidify their knowledge and make their thought process understood by others.
When connecting with other educators, they often share their passion for games in mathematics as well. We find that often games are played during learning centre time and without the observation or involvement of adults. Though this type of play is valuable, there is certainly something to be said about how vital the role of an educator is!
Educators play an important role in connecting children's informal understanding of mathematics with more formal, school-based mathematics. Teachers are continuously learning and researching in order to gain a deeper understanding of the foundations of early mathematics.
Building our foundation as educators, allows us to understand the learning continuum and support children based on their needs.