Puzzles and the Zone of Proximal Development

by Early Math Counts

When I teach about Lev Vygotsky and his renowned theory of the “Zone of Proximal Development” I use puzzles as means of illustrating the principles in an understandable way. Remember this…


As adults or more competent peers support a child’s learning, the child moves from one level in which he can complete tasks independently to the next.  This process is called, “scaffolding.”

Take a look at this video of a teacher and another boy supporting a child as he attempts to complete a puzzle.

Did you see the friend show him how to move the pieces around so they fit?  Listen as the teacher reminds him that the piece he is holding is a corner piece.  Both of these are examples of how an adult or a more sophisticated peer can provide just enough information to a child so that the learning is scaffolded.

Now watch the child complete the puzzle completely in his own.  Notice the spatial knowledge required to do so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *