Play and Mark Making

Mark making during play can be encouraged and used as a tool to reflect and review after play. Observe the type of language children use to explain their play. Children’s discussion about their mark making embodies mathematical language naturally in order for them to explain ‘what is going on’ in their picture. Adopt the mantra ‘Notice, Explore and Talk about Mathematics’ when discussing mark making with the children. Below you can see some examples of mark making and mathematical language opportunities.


  • Brennan, C. (2014) Inquiring about Life through Play. Barnardos Links Magazine, Autumn, 34-40.
  • Clements, D., H. & Sarama, J. (2014) Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach. Second ed. New York; London: Routledge
  • Dooley, T., Dunphy, E., & Shiel, G. (2014) Mathematics in Early Childhood and Primary Education. Research Report 18 [online]. Dublin: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
  • Dunphy, E., Dooley, T., & Shiel, G. (2014) Mathematics in Early Childhood and Primary Education. Definitions, Theories, Development and Progression. Research Report 17 [online]. Dublin: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
  • Edwards, C., Gandini, L. and Forman G. (2012) The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation (3rd Ed) California: Praeger.
  • French, G. (2013) Early literacy and numeracy matters. Journal of Early Childhood Studies [online]. 7(April).
  • Ginsburg, H.P. (2016) Helping early childhood educators to understand and assess young children’s mathematical minds. ZDM Mathematics Education, 48, 941–946.
  • Ginsburg, H. (2006) Mathematical play and playful mathematics: A guide for early education. In: Singer, D. G., Golinkoff, R.M. & Hirsh-Pasek, K. eds. Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children’s Cognitive Social-emotional Growth. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 145–166.
  • Ginsburg, H., Lee, J., & Boyd, J. (2008) Mathematics education for young children: What it is and how to promote it. Social Policy Report, XX11( 1)
  • Gopnik, A. (2012) Scientific Thinking in Young Children: Theoretical Advances, Empirical Research, and Policy Implications. Science, 337(6102), 1623-1627.
  • Gray, P. (2017) What Exactly Is Play, and Why Is It Such a Powerful Vehicle for Learning? Topics in Language Disorders, 37(3), 217-228.
  • Mardell, B., Wilson, D., Ryan, J., Ertel, K., Krechevsky, M and Baker, M. (2016) Towards a Pedagogy of Play. A Project Zero Working Paper [online].
  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (2020) The Building Blocks of Early Mathematics [online]. Dublin: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (2009) Aistear. The Early Childhood Framework [online]. Dublin: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
  • Perry, B. & Dockett, S. (2007) Play and Mathematics. Adelaide: Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers.
  • Stafford, P. (2012) Numeracy through Play in Infant Classes: How Play Helps Numeracy Development [online]
  • The Smith Family. (2015) Strengthening Early Numeracy Learning: The Let’s Count Program In. Perry, B. & Dockett, S. (2018) Using a bioecological framework to investigate an early childhood mathematics education intervention. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 26(4), 604-617.
  • Weisberg, D. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., Kittredge, A.K. & Klahr, D. (2016) Guided Play: Principles and Practices. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(3), 177–182.
  • Wickstrom, H., Pyle, A. & De Luca, C. (2019) Does Theory Translate into Practice? An Observational Study of Current Mathematics Pedagogies in Play-Based Kindergarten. Early Childhood Education Journal [online]. 47(3), 287–295.