Zoltan Dienes was born in Hungary and moved to England at the age of 16. He has since worked around the globe spreading his vision of learning math through play to such places as England, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Guinea, USA, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and others, immigrating to Canada in 1966. He developed the new field of Psychomathematics (psychology of mathematics learning) and was the director of the Centre de Recherche en Psychomathématiques at the Université de Sherbrooke (Quebec) for many years. After his retirement, he taught part time in the Department of Education at Acadia University for a while and many local grade school teachers would remember visits to their classrooms.
Excerpt from: ZOLTAN PAUL DIENES AND THE DYNAMICS OF MATHEMATICAL LEARNING
The Montana Mathematics Enthusiast, Monograph 2, September 2007.
The name of Zoltan P. Dienes (1916-) stands with those of Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner as a legendary figure whose theories of learning have left a lasting impression on the field of mathematics education. Dienes’ name is synonymous with the Multi-base blocks (also known as Dienes blocks) which he invented for the teaching of place value. He also is the inventor of Algebraic materials and logic blocks, which sowed the seeds of contemporary uses of manipulative materials in mathematics instruction. Dienes’ place is unique in the field of mathematics education because of his theories on how mathematical structures can be taught from the early grades onwards using multiple embodiments through manipulatives, games, stories and dance.
Dienes’ notion of embodied knowledge presaged other cognitive scientists who eventually came to recognize the importance of embodied knowledge and situated cognition – where knowledge and abilities are organized around experience as much as they are organized around abstractions. Dienes was an early pioneer in what was later to be called sociocultural perspectives and democratization of learning.