How Play Helps Students to Comprehend Mathematics




Homiller, Samantha

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In the realm of mathematics education, there is an emerging line of research which explores how to incorporate play-based practices into classrooms in order to better engage students in mathematics instruction. Play has traditionally been an important part of early childhood education, but only recently has the value of play in specific content areas been considered. This new research considering the integration of play-based methods in education has inspired the idea that play could be used in mathematics contexts in order to help students be more engaged with the subject and find it more applicable to their lives. This paper explores the incorporation of play-based methods into mathematics education. Play as a general term is defined as well as, more specifically, mathematics play. Mathematics play is analyzed in terms of effectiveness and benefits for students in both early childhood and elementary school education. As part of this project, research on play-based methods used in mathematics is synthesized to develop play-based mathematics activities designed for a 4th grade classroom. Each activity is described, linked to curricular standards, and explained in terms of how play is embedded into the activity. These activities were implemented for a short period of time in a 4th grade classroom and a reflection on the strengths, weaknesses, and overall effectiveness of these activities is shared. Implications for practice in upper elementary school contexts are discussed and contrasted with ways in which play is commonly used in early childhood classrooms. The complexities and tensions of defining and using play in classrooms are also explored throughout the paper.



play, mathematics education, elementary education, play-based education, mathematical play, Mathematics, Honors College


Homiller, S. R. (2022). How play helps students to comprehend mathematics (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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