Author Archives: Paul Reimer

Participating in Play

One of our primary ways of working with preschool teachers and children has been to consider together the ways children learn through play. “Play” itself is not an easy concept to define – and perhaps attempts to define it limit its potential. What is considered play for one may not be considered play for another. Many who have studied play have related it to playfulness or a playful disposition.

We’re finding that conversations around play in early childhood classrooms eventually turn to the teacher’s role in children’s play. Through these conversations, several questions have emerged: does play necessarily lead to learning? Are there particular ways that teachers can engage with children to support learning through play without disrupting their play?

Researcher Brent Davis has explored play as a way of being and has suggested several important considerations for teachers:

“In the classroom…the recognition of the vitality of the connection between play and learning points to a participatory sort of teaching–a teaching in which the teacher does not stand outside to direct the play, but becomes a vital part of the action. Immersed in the play, the teacher too is a learner.”

Davis goes on to describe the teacher’s role as that of a learner alongside children and includes some key tasks:

*   presenting possibilities

*   through attending to students’ responses, opening spaces for play

During play, he advocates that teachers “allow for departure from the anticipated play, fluidity in the structured play, and uncertainty in the known play.” I find this call to be an intriguing one and invite you to consider these allowances more deeply. What might these teacher ways-of-being look like in the classroom? Allowing for departure, fluidity, and uncertainty–and knowing when to allow for each–is certainly a high call for educators. But are there ways we can open spaces for these types of playful interactions to take hold? The next few posts will be dedicated to exploring examples of interactions in our preschool work that may embody these allowances.

Quotes taken from: Davis, B. (1996). Teaching mathematics: Toward a sound alternative. New York: Garland Publishing.


Turning to Conversation

“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again…Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.” -Margaret Wheatley Teaching requires reflective conversation–before, during, and after. In this short blog post, I’d like to share a few quotes… Continue Reading

In Their Voices (Part 1)

In his pivotal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire described the importance of the human voice in dialogue: Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men and women transform the world. To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change… Continue Reading


Last September, I wrote a blog entry about the importance of partnership in our work with teachers. I described how we understand that each teacher, teacher aide, director, and researcher brings a set of understandings and experiences to this work and that these can contribute to a rich, fruitful interaction. If you read the blog… Continue Reading

Play is Risk-Tolerant

I recently read the following claim in a piece from the creative folks at KQED Mindshift: “Up to 70 percent of the tasks in most jobs are on track to be automated, leaving only the most creative, empathetic, technically fluent, collaborative work for humans. Students need to find motivation and meaning, and take a playful… Continue Reading

Learning is Moving in New Ways

I recently attended the Psychology of Mathematics Education conference in Indianapolis. While at the conference, I participated in several sessions with a workgroup that is interested in exploring how the ways we move our bodies influence our cognition. This concept of embodied cognition theorizes how learning to move in new ways can form the basis… Continue Reading


Our early math team is excited to be engaging with preschool teachers in thinking together about mathematics teaching and learning in preschool classrooms. One of the ways we have structured our work together is through the lens of partnership. Think for a moment about what it means to work as a partner. What comes to… Continue Reading

Teaching is Listening

Last week, our Early Math Team here at the AIMS Center partnered with Fresno EOC Head Start to spend a day devoted to children’s mathematics. I had the privilege of sharing a few thoughts at the beginning of the day to help shape our time and work together over the coming year. In this keynote,… Continue Reading

Idea Generators

I just returned from two weeks of study at Michigan State University as part of my PhD program in Education. My study related to qualitative research purposes and methodologies. I gained experience in writing field notes, conducting interviews, collecting data, and describing and analyzing observations. Although much of this work requires taking notes, this is… Continue Reading

Telling Stories

Our early math team has just finished up our work at several preschool sites for this school year and we’ve been reflecting on our experiences thus far. In conversations with teachers about what we’ve learned and how this experience has deepened our understanding of children’s mathematics, we’ve told lots of stories about particular children that… Continue Reading