Let me ask you, do you think math centers are just busy work?
I don't and I want to share with you why! In my class, math centers are a class favorite for many reasons. Sadly, some administrators or teachers may look at games as just a filler to give teachers time to do something while the students are entertained for 20 minutes. Some have said it's busy work or that they aren't meaningful. But in my class, math centers are purposeful, engaging, and fun. Let me show you!
I've got a few tips for those of you who want to implement math centers and games, but aren't sure where to start. You can see a previous post I did on how to set them up, here.
Tip 1: Find a storage unit that works best for you and students can access easily.
Tip 2: If you have a bookshelf for your math station area, use baskets for storage.
Tip 3: Below is what my math station looks like. I was lucky to have a book shelf in my room so I used the baskets pictured above and a shoe organizer to store all of our materials.
If you look on top of the shelf, I have one basket that has addition and subtraction games inside. This is a yearlong standard in my district so I want to make sure that students have access to these games all year.
I have another basket that has games that relate to the unit of study at the moment. I use both of these baskets for different purposes, depending on the lesson's objective.
Tip 4: Now that we've got them set up, let's explore how they can be used. I have used math centers all sorts of ways over the years. In my class this year, my early finishers love going to the math centers area and picking a game that interests them, which leads to engagement! If I want them to get extra practice with a skill that we're working through, then they can only choose games from the Units of Study basket. Sometimes I leave both baskets out, or I'll pick one or the other, depending on the objective.
Tip 5: Not only are math centers great for early finishers, they should also be used like you might do with literacy rotations. In our class, we have math center rotations once a week. This is the time I'll choose 5 math centers, 1 for each table group. If we're working on time for example, once center will focus on a standard related to time that we've previously covered. I like to use the centers as reinforcement practice so that my students can work independently.
Since our year long standard is adding and subtracting, I'll always throw in one or two centers to make sure students are exposed frequently.
We have our technology center where students work on many things, depending on the objective. We used Ten Marks last year which was great because I could assign problems based on the standards we were working through. It gave me immediate data which helped me see who needed extra support or challenges.
Last Tip: I'm also a HUGE fan of no prep. games that are simple to set up and easy for students to use. During this center, kiddos rolled a dice and spun a spinner to come up with a sum. Super simple and can be differentiated in a million ways! Get creative!
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