I am Never Satisfied!
I can count on just one hand the times that I have looked around my classroom and thought, “ahhhh, this is good.” I am just never satisfied with how things are going. Especially with Math Centers! Is everyone actively engaged? Are all my students being challenged and their needs being met? Am I presenting the material at the rigor that they will encounter on state tests? There is just always something that I feel like I could improve upon.
Did I Mention Math Centers?
Perhaps it is a lack of time, or maybe my brain simply cannot wrap itself around all of those different activities at once, but most of the math center ideas floating around Pinterest just left me looking around the room thinking, “this is not quite it.” Am I the only one who can’t seem to make those rotations work? Too many moving parts, too many different activities, too much confusion! (And, ahem, too much to grade!)
Guided Math Centers, My Way!
I pared it down, added some magnets, and voila! My new math centers were born! This new math time consists of a fluid, student-led rotation between centers. Most math center/guided math templates call for at least 4 different activities and groups of kids rotating through various types of math fact review and skills practice each day. It can get out of hand very easily, both classroom management AND the piles of center work to grade!
So…out with the timers, the multiple tasks a day, and the constant group changes! Here are the best things about my new math setup:
- Students move their magnet to the center they are working on, so you can easily see who has completed what.
- It is differentiated! Students that require it have the ability to work at a slower pace, higher students have meaningful, challenging work.
- MUCH lower prep than traditional math centers
OK, let’s get started!
Here is how we do math in room A-29
Centers work on a week long rotation, so you don’t need a ton of activities and copies everywhere! Typically, we don’t move to centers until Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the skill and if I need one or two days to deliver whole-group instruction. Then, students simply move their magnet to the next center as they complete each one.
The best thing about this setup is that the kids work through the centers at their own pace. My requirement is that they get through the Teacher’s Choice center, Math Facts center, and Spiral Review each week. The last two are “extra.” This allows those that require additional work time the ability to finish at their own pace, but also gives them an incentive to be as focused as possible because everyone loves to try the challenge center and play the games! Plus, it meets the needs of your highest students through the performance tasks.
The point of “guided” math is the ability to pull small groups and work with them individually. The label at the bottom of the board is for the “Meet with Teacher” center. These are the kiddos you need to pull in a small group setting to re-mediate and work with one-on-one. Sometimes this takes the whole center time, other times after a few practice problems you discover that there was a simple issue and they can go join the class in the centers.
Here is a Sample Planning Document I use to help me map out my centers for each unit. The “teacher’s choice” center is essentially the Independent Practice portion of my lesson plans, and Math Facts stays the same each week I just swap out the number.
Start with Teacher’s Choice
After a whole-group lesson (or whole group warm-up, depending on the day) the class is given their “Teacher’s Choice Center” for the day. This activity is directly related to the skill taught and may or may not be independent. Sometimes I make the Teacher’s Choice center a partner game or group activity, but most often it is simply individual work for a grade. I give them a “teacher’s choice” center every day (it’s basically their “independent practice”) and when they are finished, they move on. My classroom is an inclusion setting, so we always have that range of finish times. The early finishers to the never-turn-it-in kids, we’ve got them all! This setup works well for this issue because as the students complete the Teacher’s Choice center for the day, they move their button on the board to the next station: Math Facts!
(Psssst- check out this super fun, cooperative-learning math game that you can use for ANY skill!)
Once at this center, students complete the “Number of the Day” in their math notebooks. This is awesome because you don’t need to prep anything! Simply swap out the number each week! I call it Math Facts because it covers the basics of number sense, plus some computation/estimation thrown in. You can create this any way you want, I even have a decimal version AND a fraction one! Students work through the number, including a rationale for certain responses. Then they check and review with partners. Done! At the end of math, my co-teacher and I do a spot check of the students whose magnets are on/past this center to keep the kiddos accountable, then we review the Number of the Week on Fridays so everyone can check their work/ask questions. Now they move to…
For this center, all I do is pull an activity from the previous skill taught and pop it in the bin. For example, this week I am teaching multiplication of decimal numbers. Last week, we learned addition and subtraction of decimal numbers, so I pulled out a game with adding/subtracting decimals for this week’s Spiral Review center. Often, when I don’t have time for an activity I can use it the next week in this center 🙂 If there is a skill my class struggled in, this is how I work in the review materials!
After completing this activity, the students move their magnet to…
This center is great for that group that always catches on quickly, works quickly, and is likely to end up bored with nothing to do. While you are helping those who need it, and the class works through centers, these kiddos can work on a performance task! I have an example HERE of the template I use, but you can use anything similar. The focus is the students’ ability to explain their thinking.
This book also has 50 leveled problems that all lend themselves to a performance task assignment! I use it almost every week and it correlates well with our math standards and rigor. I highly recommend it! (Hey, it’s one less thing you have to create!)
Additional ideas for this center include number puzzles. Sudoku type puzzles are great- just add in a place for students to provide an explanation for how they solve them. The goal is to get them to think about their strategies!
I typically allow cooperative work during this center so they can learn from and push each other, but you can always grade these, too!
Of course, I have a slew of math games in my classroom that the kids love and if a student completes all centers they know that they can get a game from the bins, where to find the materials, and how to play. There is NO IDLE TIME in our class, there is always something constructive to do!
For some students, working through all centers takes all week, while others may get to the math review games by Thursday. Our goal is that by Friday, all students have completed the first three math centers, so they at least get current skills practice plus some review. What matters is all students are working on meaningful work and you have time to work with those that need it.
We love math in Room A-29! It has become a routine and it flows so nicely. I hope that you have found some ideas to add to your math class!
Do you like these Math Center labels? Grab them in the Resource Library!
Looking for some great center ideas? Click HERE!
Or, check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for lots of fun activities!
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