Watch a child on an iPad. Impressive how the youngest can swipe, pick a game and get started. Amazing how they can master that game. Or do they? Watch closely as they drag a piece of puzzle they think matches the correct place in the picture and they think is oriented correctly in space. Watch as the movement is auto-corrected and placed correctly in the puzzle without effort from the child. Are they acquiring pre-math skills, spatial awareness and geometry knowledge? Questionable, especially if they don't notice that the puzzle did part of the work by silently self-correcting for them.
Next place a hands-on, wooden puzzle in their hands. Watch as they use fine motor skills to pick up the small piece. Watch as they use visual discrimination to determine if that piece correctly matches the picture in the puzzle. Watch as they struggle to orient that piece correctly. Watch as they move the piece from place to place or abandon that piece for the correct piece. Watch as they turn to a friend or teacher and talk about the puzzle, the pieces, their questions. Watch as they work hard and gasp as that piece finally slides into the correct place. Are they acquiring pre-math skills, spatial awareness, geometric knowledge, perseverance, vocabulary and fine motor skills? You bet.