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The Power of Playing Ball

Tammy Steele
August 11, 2021 As they learn to throw a ball, talk with toddlers and young children about what the ball is doing. It goes up in the air and falls back down. It flies up and down in an arc. The harder you throw it, the faster and farther it travels. If you throw it too hard, it flies over Mom’s head. If you throw it to one side, she must run to catch it. Say what you see. When children play, they are learning to think. Their thinking is strengthened when adults give them the words for what is happening as they play. This is how kids learn the big ideas of math. Throwing a ball leads to seeing it arc, leads to visualizing a parabola, leads to the quadratic equation, leads to rocket science. Playing ball with toddlers helps them learn algebra as teens. For the advanced version of how this works, see Our book, The Gift of Words: How Do Children Learn to Talk?supports recent research about how babies and toddlers learn to talk. A new book, The Gift of Math: Math Talk with Young Children, will be available in 2022. See and Or go to our partner Play Smart Literacy at to share literacy games, play videos and make contact with play coaches on Chicago’s South Side.

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