I know this is a long thing to read without illustration, so I scanned the arrangement of blocks above from Paradise of Childhood. The complexity of the arrangement of blocks from the Fifth Gift is certainly beyond the way mathematics is usually presented, and at 5 and 6 years of age, far earlier than any complex math is now presented to kids.
These days, Froebel's Kindergarten, just like Educational Sloyd, has nearly completely disappeared from the educational landscape. Now we have Kindergarten in name only, and remote statistical examination of mathematical groupings of kids has superseded actual observation and direct understanding of the individual child. Kindergarten has become the place where reading and readiness to read have become the whole enchilada, leaving the child and our future two tacos short. Play with blocks in a Froebel Kindergarten was not just play. It was a way of developing the whole child and laying the clear path to his or her success in math and in life.
By the time my mother had become educated as a Kindergarten teacher, the breadth and scope of Kindergarten had been shrunk to a single year, and the tools of Froebel's Kindergarten had been forgotten. In the meantime, PISA results released just released show American students holding steady in the middle of the pack. All the attention that has been given to American education of late through standardized testing has done nothing to help us move forward. As reported by Claudio Sanchez on NPR, the results of this year's PISA study are "sobering" and like living Groundhog day over and over again. They show no improvement since 2003. I can safely warn that we won't get things right until we arrive hands first.
It is time for a true renewal of Kindergarten and a restoration of school wood shops.
Make, fix and create...