Embarking on an innovative approach to math education, The Green Vale School has integrated block play into the curriculum for students from Pre-Kindergarten to 3rd Grade. While, traditionally, block play is often associated with Early Childhood, this GVS Math program—under the guidance of Math Coordinator, Heejung Eom—has expanded its horizons to cater to older students.
Rather than imposing limitations on their creativity, Eom sets forth open-ended block challenges, inviting students to envision and construct mathematical arrays, a bridge, or a staircase, independently or in collaboration with peers. The deliberate repetition of these challenges serves a dual purpose: encouraging students to approach each task with a fresh, creative mindset and fostering an intrinsic motivation to continually improve.
The incorporation of block play into the math curriculum is a methodical strategy to enhance the overall math experience for young learners. Eom emphasizes aligning the approach to block challenges with the problem-solving techniques applied to traditional math problems. From the use of basic shapes and counting to more advanced concepts such as multiplication, subtraction, and addition, students engage with mathematical principles while stacking blocks in specific positions, exploring various angles, and building unique structures. Eom also pays close attention to the language used during these activities, promoting the development of mathematical vocabulary as students discuss and coordinate their ideas.
The overarching goal of introducing block play to the math program is to instill the understanding that math is not confined to numbers or equations on a worksheet; it is omnipresent in our surroundings.
"Math remains inherent in the block challenges, despite its playful appearance," explained Eom. "Through this interactive play, students find enjoyment in math, dispelling the all-too-common fear that arises when faced with traditional math worksheets or problems."
Eom also underscores the importance of problem-solving in math education, conveying the notion that resilience and determination are integral components of overcoming challenges.
"I advise my students that approaching math requires a lot of grit, which might be very intimidating to some. That's where block play comes in,” Eom continued. “When I present a block challenge to students, they may not understand how to approach it initially. However, when they persevere, work together, and refuse to give up in order to reach that end goal, the process becomes less intimidating because they've successfully experienced it before."
In the realm of mathematics at The Green Vale School, block play emerges as a powerful catalyst for transformative learning. By integrating this innovative approach, students not only engage with mathematical concepts in a playful and joyful manner but also develop the resilience and problem-solving skills essential for their academic journey. A journey where every block laid becomes a step towards shaping young minds for a future of mathematical excellence.