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Learning Maths Through Play

Beebot on Beebot street mat on classroom floor


Students must hold maths in their hands before they can hold maths in their heads”

Teaching mathematical concepts to young students can be done in a fun and engaging way through hands-on learning experiences. By introducing maths concepts through play-based learning activities, students can make connections by seeing and holding maths in their hands.

In this post, I will share a number of resources and ways you can teach mathematical concepts through play-based learning experiences.


Number & Algebra:

Number & Place Value


SumBlox stacked on table

SumBlox are a great resource for the Junior Primary classroom. They are multi-sensory maths tools that allow students to visualise and understand the value of numbers through the various number block heights that increase with the value of the number. SumBlox help students build a strong understanding of maths concepts including patterns, addition and subtraction.

SumBlox multiple stacks on table SumBlox stacked landscape


Money & Financial Mathematics

Money Play Through Shops

Classroom pretend and play class shop

Setting up a class shop is a great way for students to understand the value of money. Each student can be given a set amount of play money, or be rewarded with money for completing tasks in the class, that they can then spend at the class shop. Students can take on the role of shopkeeper and customer to learn about the cost of items and the change that needs to be given to the customer.


Bee-Bot Money Mat

Bee Bot Robot on Money Mat

The Money Mat combined with a Bee-Bot, Blue-Bot, Dash, or other robot is a great way to incorporate technology into a maths lesson. Students can program their robot to manoeuvre to the different money amounts. To extend students’ thinking, they can add or subtract different money amounts together.

Both the Money Coin Spinner and the Money Note Spinner can be used to randomise the amount of money students need to program their robot to. Even without the Bee-Bot mat and robots, students can use the spinners to calculate the money amounts.


Patterns & Algebra

Exploring Patterns

Having students explore and create patterns helps them visualise the maths concepts being taught. Using various items like the Bear Counters, Counting Links or Wooden Counting Cubes students can organise and create a variety of patterns to show their understanding.

Counting links on floor Counting cubes on coloured card

Measurement & Geometry

Using Units of Measurement

How Much Does It Weigh?

Students can explore the concepts of measurement through hands-on learning by physically holding the various objects to compare which item is heavier and lighter. First they can predict their answer, then test by holding the objects in their hands before finally measuring the exact weight of the items using the scale.

Rocker Scale on tableFeatured Product:  Rocker Scale



2D Shape / 3D Object Creations

Exploring two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional objects in the Junior Primary classroom is always fun. Having students create their own pictures using both 2D shapes and 3D objects can be supported and enhanced by using physical objects and shapes to construct their design and develop their creativity. It enables students to hold, move and create their individual characters or pictures exactly how they would like.
Students can further demonstrate their understanding by pointing out the various shapes and/or objects they used in their created picture.

2d shape patterns on purple card3D clear shapes on coloured card

Featured Products: 

Freeform Play Shapes – 248 pieces
Small Geometric Translucent Shapes – 72 pieces


Bee-Bot Shape Mat/Cards

The MTA Robotics Cards Set includes a set of shape cards which is another wonderful way to incorporate technology into mathematics. Using the MTA Shape Colour & Size Robotics Mat together with the shape cards, students can select a card from the pack, identify the shape and then direct their robot to that position on the mat. They can then describe and record the number of sides, edges, colours etc. of the shape they chose.

Featured Products:

MTA Shape Colour & Size Robotics Mat – Vinyl – 100 x 100cm
MTA Robotics Cards Set – 60 Double-Sided Cards


Location & Transformation

Bee-Bot Mats

Bee-Bots are a great way to incorporate digital technology and mathematical concepts in the same lesson. They provide hands-on learning experiences that allow students to learn about directional movement by physically coding and seeing the Bee-Bot move in front of them. There are so many resources to support Bee-Bots in the classroom. I love using the Robotics Coding Cards for students to place onto the ground first before programming the Bee-Bot to move. This helps them to see their code and recognise any errors and to make changes if the Bee-Bot does not move accordingly.

Beebot Road Maze Mat with Bee-bot on classroom floor

Featured products:
Bee-Bot Road Maze Tiles Kit

Robotics Coding Cards – 60 Cards

Statistics & Probability


Data Representation & Interpretation

What’s in the Bag?

colourful selection of 6 drawstring bags
Teachers can place a selection of objects in these colourful drawstring bags to suit their learning intention. An example is having five yellow bears and two green bears in a bag.
The teacher could then ask;
– ‘Will I pick out a red bear?’ (Students can respond with ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘impossible’.)
– ‘Is it more likely that I’ll pick out a yellow or a green bear?’


These are just some of the ways you can incorporate play into your mathematics lessons. There are so many learning experiences we can create to support our students’ understanding of mathematical concepts through hands-on play, it really is just up to the creativity of your lesson design to meet your students’ needs.


What hands-on lessons have you created to support your students’ mathematical understanding? We’d love to hear from you!


About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award-winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at and @misskyritsis


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5 Great Reasons To Play Board Games With Your Children

Montage of board game boxes

There’s no school or preschool for many kids right now and with no play dates, sporting events or birthday parties to look forward to, life could be a little tricky at your house as you try to live, learn, work and play under the same roof.

If the novelty of ‘physical distancing’ is starting to wear off and your internet data levels are going through the roof because your children all want to watch ‘screens’ while you’re trying to work from home, why not pull out a board game to keep them engaged and interacting with one another for a while?

Games have been used since time immemorial for teaching social and academic skills to children and adults alike.

Did you know that the games of Go and Chess both evolved from being a way to test the mind of a military leader to a way to pass the time? The board games of today are no different.

Aside from building strong family ties, spending time playing board games with your children can have a surprising range of social and academic benefits.

I’ve been a teacher for over thirty years and wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve played board games with my students. The child psychologists, speech therapists and occupational therapists I work with today also often use board games to help children to develop the skills they need to succeed at home and in the classroom.

With a good board game, you can do the same with your own children!


Benefits of Board Games

Some of the benefits your child can gain include:

• Building resilience

Games that involve a chance to randomly experience a set-back can help your child learn resilience. By playing games like Snakes and Ladders , you can help your child learn to bounce back from a disappointment and keep pushing towards an end goal.

• Learning how to cope with winning and losing

Playing games with others helps children learn to focus on having fun, rather than winning or losing. However, it also teaches them how to cope with both sides of that coin. Rather than celebrating and gloating they learn to move past the glory of winning and focus on having fun as a group. When you play board games with your children, you can show them how to recover from a loss and do better in the next game instead of sulking over coming second.

• Learning patience and the concept of waiting for one’s turn

This one can be difficult in our fast-paced world but taking the time to play with your children can help. In my children’s health and education practice in Sydney, we make frequent use of many of the board games made by Orchard Toys that are perfect for teaching young children this skill. We particularly like the Bus Stop Game and Where’s My Cupcake?, which combine real life scenarios with great lessons in turn taking.

Board games build thinking skills

Games can also be played to help children consolidate curriculum skills that they’re learning at school or preschool.

By playing board games with your child, they get opportunities to practice:

• Early number skills such as matching, counting, and keeping a score

Matching games teach children observational skills as well as being able to pair like with like. One of our favourites to play is Monster Bingo

A key skill for children to learn prior to going to school is the ability to count. Games that can support correspondence counting make the time spent to learn the skill more enjoyable for everyone. A fun one to start with is Catch and Count, which helps children learn to count and recognise numbers.

Keeping score is a step up after learning to count, and can be applied to most games, even if it’s only a simple “OK, I won this game, mark it down.” When the game is over, you can ask, “How many games did you win? How many did I win?”

Another Maths option is a game like the Magic Spelling Game. Kids have lots of fun learning addition and subtraction and quickly come to understand that count how close all the players are to winning is the key to the game.

• Early literacy skills that are learned when a child reads for a purpose

Adding games to your child’s leisure time on a regular basis can also aid them immensely as they develop early literacy skills. Games can vary from letter recognition to reading for a purpose, such as reading the ‘Chance’ cards from Monopoly. Our favourite for this group is difficult to choose, but it might just be Sight Words String Ups which combines vocabulary building, reading and fine motor skills in an innovative game that kids enjoy.

As you spend time playing with your children on a rainy day, you’re not only helping them to learn and build skills, but you’re also building memories.

When they get to play games with you, they learn many life skills that will serve them, as well as a relationship that will only grow with time.

So next time a friend or relative asks what to buy your child for a birthday or other special occasion, why not suggest a board game or two?

They’re the kind of gift that just keep on giving!!


Featured Products:

Snakes and Ladders



Bus Stop Game

Where’s My Cupcake?

Monster Bingo

Monster Bingo

Magic Spelling Game

Sight Words String Ups

About the Author

Sonja Walker is the best-selling author of School Ready: A practical and supportive guide for parents with sensitive kids. She is also an experienced teacher, speaker, mum and the founder of Kids First Children’s Services, an award-winning pediatric health and education practice in Sydney where she leads a highly experienced team of child psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and teachers. Sonja’s mission is to help kids to thrive, not just ‘cope’ by supporting their parents and teachers with practical solutions and easy ideas that make life happier at home, preschool and school. Sonja presents keynote speeches and workshops in preschools, schools and corporate settings and is a sought after media commentator on topics related to children’s learning and development. To contact Sonja, please visit

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