Math PK-2

Systems Change

Free Choice


Free choice supports learner interests and promotes the development of more complex social interactions. Scheduling at least 30 minutes of free choice or collaborative play time allows learners to have the opportunity to engage in activities that make learning feel meaningful and supports the development of a broad array of cognitive and social and emotional skills.

In addition to these powerful benefits, collaborative play with math games, manipulatives, and activities promotes growth in the following math skills:

  • Cardinality (e.g., sets of grouped materials)

  • Counting (e.g., games that require counting spaces)

  • Estimation (e.g., clay or other malleable materials)

  • Spatial Skills (e.g., building blocks)

  • Symbolic Number Knowledge (e.g., number manipulatives)

Use It in the Classroom

Watch how preschoolers play and listen to them explain their perspectives on free choice. Through the provided play supplies, teachers foster students' mathematical thinking and number talk while playing. Additionally, by allowing learners to have agency in how they play, they participate in authentic social interactions and develop their Motivation for exploration.

  • Free play with grocery store or cooking items, like fruits, money, or measuring cups, encourage math talk around Estimation. Students are also exposed to math and number talk with and through their classmates, supporting Language Skills and overall math development.

  • Design It into Your Product

    Videos are chosen as examples of strategies in action. These choices are not endorsements of the products or evidence of use of research to develop the feature.

    With 38 games and counting, Toca Boca empowers students to play for the sake of play. By engaging in free play through open-ended interactions, student Motivation can increase, and students can practice their Emotion and Self-regulation skills.

  • By designing objects, games, and activities with open-ended interaction capabilities, developers can indirectly promote free play and exploration.

  • Factors Supported by this Strategy