Picture this: Students’ heads are together, voice volumes are low, and everyone has a job to do. Everyone has a job to do whether they are in a small group with other students, the teacher, or working independently. When I envision this scene, I assume that the students are reading in small groups, independently, working on a reading center activity, or learning with a teacher in small guided reading groups.
It may be small group reading time with reading centers. Just maybe, though, this particular classroom is in the middle of math centers! Math centers are an integral time in an elementary classroom, especially for our younger elementary learners.
What are math centers?
Math centers are a time of day devoted to math outside of whole group math instruction. Math centers allow students to practice and review the concepts they are learning during whole group math instruction, as well as allowing the teacher time with small groups to ensure understanding.
Types of Math Centers:
There are many different types of math centers. There are fun games students can play, worksheets to review, or manipulatives to be explored. Students may also use digital resources for math centers. Some math centers will require small group cooperation, and others are independent activities. One math center should be with a teacher or other adult in the classroom who can see how well students understand the math concepts being taught in whole group instruction.
Traditional Math Centers
There are many, many ideas out there for math centers for young elementary learners. There are always great options for using manipulatives like counting bears, counting chips, dice, and other manipulatives for students to practice basic addition and subtraction facts. These objects that the students can physically hold, touch, and add and subtract are fun and a great review of basic facts.
For those centers where you need physical activities and math work for your students to do, look no further than my No-Prep Math Worksheets. For first and second graders, you will find nothing better out there, although I do say so myself. By following the link for No-Prep Math Worksheets, you will find monthly bundles prepared for you. Each bundle includes easy print-and-go activities that fit with the common core standards for each month of the year. Grab each month individually, or go ahead and get the whole year at once in the Math Worksheets Bundle.
Patterns are huge in elementary classrooms, so make a math center devoted to patterns of all types! Check out the Pattern Block Shapes Puzzles Bundle for a year’s worth of printable work on patterns, blocks, shapes, and puzzles for math center fun.
Another great activity for math centers is good old geoboards. These boards have been around forever in classrooms, and though they have changed slightly since we were in school, they are still educational and fun for students today. My Geoboards Bundle provides your classroom with monthly packets of geoboard activities for your students to explore all things geometry.
Digital Math Center time
There are so many incredible options for digital math centers. The only limit is time and how many devices you can access for your students. From boom cards to group activities, and individual tasks, there are many great options for digital math centers.
My personal favorite is to use Math Digital Task Cards or Boom Card decks for students to work on math concepts on their own. These Digital Task Cards allow students to interact with the material they are learning in whole group math class. The activities allow students to decide on the correct answer and they are immediately shown whether their answer is correct or incorrect. From simple counting, addition, subtraction, and patterns for early learners on up to multiplication, division, and beginning geometry facts, there are many great options with digital task cards.
Google slides are another great way to practice math facts and concepts with your class during math centers. From early counting, addition, and subtraction facts through distance, volume, and fractions, there are google slides available for every learning level. Most of my Digital Learning Google Slides Resources are disguised as games and activities so that your students won’t even know they are learning and reviewing math material from class!
Small Group Math Instruction
Once, coming up with math center activities was the daunting part of fitting math centers into your day. With all these resources available, though, you have nothing to fear. Your students will be kept busy and well-occupied so that you can work with small groups during math center rotation.
Small group math groups can be divided differently: you can take like-skilled students and group them together to work through things at a similar pace, or you can take students at different skills and levels of understanding into the same group to work together. However you decide to make your math groups, the task is the same. This time is for you as the teacher to make sure that your students are understanding and building on math concepts they are learning in whole group math instruction.
Working together with students will help teachers see where students are struggling and which concepts they need more work on. This small group instruction time will even help to decide which math centers may be beneficial next to review material where students are struggling.
Do you have math centers in your classroom?
I hope that you do! If you don’t, why not?!? These math center and small group instruction time are essential to ensuring that students understand the concepts learned in whole group math instruction. Finding time in the school day is tricky, but I think it is well worth the time commitment to make sure that our students are building on math facts and concepts instead of getting lost in the cracks of whole group math instruction. What do you think?