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Posted at: Jun 13, 2018, 6:05 PM; last updated: Jun 13, 2018, 6:05 PM (IST)

Block play can improve kids' math skills

Block play can improve kids' math skills
Photo source: Thinkstock

New York

Playing with blocks may help preschool-age children improve their mathematical skills and the ability to pay attention, a study has found.

 Researchers from the Purdue University in the US found that a semi-structured block play intervention improved math skills, such as numeracy, shape recognition and mathematical language, and two indicators of executive functioning, including cognitive flexibility and global executive functioning         Children of parents with low educational attainment benefited the most from intervention participation, according to the findings, suggesting block play could make the most impact on students with lower socio-economic backgrounds.

"Our study suggests that playing with blocks in a semi-structured format may improve these important skills," said Sara Schmitt, from Purdue University.

"We could be onto something that could have a lot of impact, especially for children in families with a lower socio-economic status, at little cost and with little training," Schmitt said.

Children from three to five years of age assigned to the intervention group participated in 14 small group play sessions lasting 15 to 20 minutes, according to the study published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Students were given sets of wooden blocks varying in shapes and sizes and were provided short prompts prior to each session, which became progressively more difficult.

"In the first session, we asked the children to build a tower. By the end of the intervention we asked them to replicate pictures of complex structures we had built previously," Schmitt said.

"We think these prompts helped children to engage with mathematical concepts and also practice their executive function skills more so than they would have without the prompts," he said.

"It's not just block play, it is intentionally using block play to facilitate the development of these skills," Schmitt said.

"The takeaway is not just putting the child in front of a set of blocks and walking away, or having blocks be available during free play. It's giving a little bit of structure and a goal for the child, which I think really elicits these skills," she said. PTI

 

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