Intentional Design of Play Center: Incorporating MATH

incorporating math into play centers journeyintoearlychildhood


Children learn best through hands-on experiences that are child-driven and authentic. Incorporating math exploration into free choice play centers allows children to explore and apply skills in real-life situations. It is also a great way to link new concepts to ones that the students already understand. When the teachers join in the play with students, they can nudge the students understanding forward and move them to incorporate more complex ideas.

Play also allows children to work and problem solve together. The importance of increasing social development to promote academics is noted in the statement from Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings: NAEYC Position Statement,

“Beyond cognitive development, teachers need to be familiar with young children’s social, emotional, and motor development, all of which are relevant to mathematical development.” 

Incorporating Shapes:

journeyintoearlychildhood number sense in play


Incorporating Symmetry: symmetry during play


Incorporating Patterning: patterns during play


Incorporating Number Sense


journeyintoearlychildhood number sense in play


Math and DAP Practices

NAEYC Position Statement on Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings

In high-quality mathematics education for three-to-six-year-old children, teachers and other key professionals should …
-enhance children’s natural interest in mathematics and their disposition to use it to make sense of their physical and social worlds;…

-provide ample time, materials, and teacher support for children to engage in play, a context in which they explore and manipulate mathematical ideas with keen interest.math


“Early math is not about the rote learning of discrete facts like how much 5 + 7 equals. Rather, it’s about children actively making sense of the world around them. Unlike drills or worksheets with one correct answer, open-ended, playful exploration encourages children to solve problems in real situations. Because the situations are meaningful, children can gain a deeper understanding of number, quantity, size, patterning, and data management (Grossman 2012).” (Making Math Meaningful for Young Children, published by NAEYC)number sense