As children play on the playground, there are many opportunities for different fun, learning, and kindergarten readiness, including some basic math ideas. Math is not something separate from everyday, and if children are used to math being part of whatever they are doing, they will feel more comfortable and confident with it later on.
One of the most obvious ways to use math at the playground is by counting. How many steps are there up to a platform? How many rungs on the ladder up the slide? Parents and caregivers can count the number of pushes on the swing. As kids learn to count, first they just say any numbers. Even if children can say the numbers in an accurate order, they still may not be counting. Counting needs a connection between one number and one object, or one number and one action. Each push is one number. As an adult counts one and gives a push, two and gives another push, the child can feel with the whole body how a number is attached to each individual push. Many experiences like this are needed for kids to understand how counting works.
On the playground, kids can also learn about more. Are there more swings or are there more slides? This is both counting and comparing. There are other comparisons such as higher, lower, faster, slower, bigger, smaller, longer, and shorter, to name a few. Although kids have a very different idea of time from the one that adults have, kids need to hear the words we use such as minutes, hours, day, night, morning, and afternoon.
As kids hear and use math, it becomes more and more familiar. When we think of how many adults have a “math phobia”, we can see how very important it is that children develop this easy acceptance of numbers and other math ideas. Can you and your child have some math fun and learning on the playground?