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Play is for teens too!

Playing is not just for little kids. Research from the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore reveals that teenaged students learn math concepts better when they have time to play with the new information and connect it to their knowledge base before they are directly taught the new concepts.

In the study, students who had a chance to play with the new information by trying out different strategies—and even failing at some, had a better understanding of the math concepts compared to the groups who were taught the concepts directly. Not only do these results reveal the importance of learning through play, but they reinforce the idea that learning is a process that involves curiosity, making connections between new knowledge and prior knowledge, as well as failure.

The researchers hope that their findings can be used to change the way math concepts are taught in the classroom. They also want to examine how this approach can be used with other subjects, including science, and how this approach would operate in other places of learning. Further research is needed, but these early findings lend themselves to educational opportunities beyond the classroom environment and to places of learning such as museums.

Museum environments, like Science World are ideal in helping to promote learning through play. They promote curiosity, interest and childlike play in visitors of all ages, including teens. If you want to learn more about the fun opportunities for teens to play and learn, check out our Teen Nights at Science World at TELUS World of Science.


Further Information

For a detailed summary of the research study described in this article, please visit:


Kapur, M. (2012). Productive failure in the concept of variance. Instructional Science, 40(4), 651–672. doi:10.1007/s11251-012-9209-6

Rennie, L. J., Feher, E., Dierking, L. D., & Falk, J. H. (2003). Toward an agenda for advancing research on science learning in out-of-school settings. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(2), 112–120. doi:10.1002/tea.10067