Thursday, September 23, 2021

Simplify and Streamline your Math Centers!

During my second year of teaching, I made the jump to guided math and it was hands-down the best instructional decision I’ve made! It allows me to support my learners at all levels and really get to know them as mathematicians. By working with all students in a small group every single day, I got a much clearer picture of what students were able to do and where they needed to grow! Read more about how I structure my guided math time in this blog post!

But you know what I didn’t love about guided math? Math centers. I loved the concept of students practicing and reviewing previously taught skills. I loved that they are able to practice these skills in fun, hands-on ways. But, every week I seemed to run into the same issues. It was taking me too long to introduce math centers and give directions to students. Introducing 5 new games and centers each week was a huge waste of instructional time! And even after taking this huge chunk of time to introduce the centers, I still had students interrupting my teacher table because they forgot how to play one of the math games. It was also taking me way to long each week to plan out my math centers. I wanted to simplify the process of changing out my centers!

Overtime, I realized that the key to engaging and productive math centers (like most other things in a primary classroom) is streamlined, structured routines! Instead of 5 new games each week, I found and created centers that students could visit every single week with minimal time spent giving directions. I simply taught procedures at the beginning of the year and we practiced the routine!

Here are five of my favorite weekly math centers.

1.     1. Solve the Room- this is a favorite in my classroom! Each week students visit our Solve the Room center. They grab a clipboard and a recording sheet and walk around the room searching for task cards. They solve the problems on the cards and write their answers on their recording sheet. Students know the procedures for this center so all I have to do is change out the cards each week!

(TIP: one of my classroom jobs is math station helper. I have two students who are responsible for taking old cards down each week and taping up new cards! They usually complete this job on Friday afternoons after packing up!)

To save time on grading Solve the Room recording sheets, I set up a grading station in my classroom. I leave the answer key and some special ink joy pens for students to grade their own work. Students learned that they should only visit the grading station if their recording sheet is complete. When checking their work, they should circle any incorrect answers. They can then go back and find the task card that they did incorrectly and try it again!

2.    2.Solve and Cover- this is another fun center where students practice and review different skills each week, but the structure and procedures for the game stays the same! Students can play this game with a partner, small group, or independently. This is a self-checking game as well, which helps students to be independent.

For this game, students need a box of task cards, a Solve and Cover mat, and some sort of manipulative. Students take turns choosing a card and solving the problem on their mats. When all students are ready, they turn the card over and check the answer on the back. If they were correct, they add a manipulative to one of the spaces on their mat. The first student to cover all the spaces is the winner! Students know that if they still have extra time, they can play again. I like to switch out my Solve and Cover Mats and manipulatives every few weeks to keep students engaged! Grab this game here! 

3.     3. Fact Fluency Center- Students visit this center to practice and grow fact fluency with addition and subtraction facts. Materials include flash cards, sand timers, and dry erase fact sheets. Students love to time themselves and their partners as they race to complete the fact sheets. Sometimes I’ll also switch out materials and add simple fact fluency games like POP!, Splat, or Shut the Box.

4.     4. Independent Work Station- I like to give students the opportunity to review important math skills independently. I always make sure these skills are review so that students are able to complete the work on their own. This is also an easy station to differentiate. I like to keep work in different color folders. Students know that they should grab work from the folder that matches their group color. 
OjColor by Code is one of my favorites for independent work or a fast finisher activity. Here are some differentiated Color by Codes I love!

5.     5. Differentiated 120 Chart Station- This is a favorite for my students! Check out this amazing resource from The Brown BagTeacher!

These are my five go-to stations that I use throughout the year. I, of course, like to throw in some fun, seasonal centers occasionally as well to keep students engaged and excited for guided math time! However, these are tried and true activities that I can use over and over. Students are reviewing and practicing the skills they need and they are able to be independent!

What are your favorite weekly math centers? What questions do you still have about our guided math time? Let me know in the comments!