Centering on Math Centers

   Children's Laptop Computer clip art  I love doing math centers with my kiddos! Comparing from years past when I did not do centers, and when I have done centers, I see such a huge difference in what the students can do. It is definitely worth it. For those who are new to centers or unsure how to set them up, here is a little of what I do to successfully make my centers work.

   First of all, I need to know how much time I have for math! My whole math time is very strategic and planned out, and I time everything I do in math. This helps me to stay on track.

  How many centers you offer are going to be based on how much time you have, and how many groups you have. I generally have 3 groups (A,B,C) with A being my lower ability group, and C the highest. Now, I also focus on specific skills, so groups can change on a weekly basis. I look at my target skills and group the students together based on similarities of needs among the students. To do this, I use a spiral review before every lesson which quickly shows me old concepts and new concepts, and whether or not students are getting those concepts. I will also use quizzes and math tests to group my students. Remember, groups are flexible, and are based on student needs.

  I have 3 centers, with only 2 rotations. These are the centers I use: 1) Teacher center, 2)Hands-on Center, and 3) Independent center. The teacher-center is exactly what it sounds like. I work with  small group of students at that time. The hands-on center includes math games, flashcards, and specific tasks that pertain to what we are learning (for example, my students are learning about grouping so one of the activities in the center asks them to make different numbers by grouping in tens and using numbers left over). The independent center consists of their math practice pages, and any extra work I put in their folder to help them work on whatever skills they need extra practice in.

  Since we only have 2 rotations a day, a math group does not get to do all 3 activities a day. Here is what a week typically looks like:

  R1 (rotation 1)                                 R2
A-Teacher Center                         A- Independent Center
B-Hands-On Center                     B- Independent Center
C-Independent-Center                  C- Hands-on Center

   This example would be for Day 1 of centers only. Day 2 I would start with group B. Groups A and  would meet with me more than group C as they are below or at level. To reach group C, you want to place more challenging work in the hands-on center.
    You will notice that during rotation 2 I am not with any small groups. I have my two lower groups practicing skills independently, so at this time I navigate the room and work one-on-one with students who need that help. I start my centers with the more capable group (C) doing their practice pages and independent work because they need less assistance from me (they aren't allowed to talk to me if I am working with a group).

My schedule: I keep my mini-lessons in all subjects to 10-15 minutes. This helps to keep the attention of my students, and lower misbehavior. It works miraculously.

10 min- spiral review
10 min- Calendar
10 min- mini lesson
20 min- Rotation 1 math centers
20 min- Rotation 2 math centers

  If you are not doing math centers, you might want to consider it. I enjoy it, even though it took me a while to get into the groove of it. Once I figured it out, it became exciting, and the kids are always excited to do math centers. Try it and see if you and your students don't fall in love with it as well.


  1. I would love to try out Math Centers; however, I feel like my day is already SO jam packed! I don't know how I'd fit it in! Thanks for sharing your routines and helpful hints!! I will put them to good use if I decide to bite the bullet and try to squeeze the centers in!

    Frolicking Through First

  2. I was really nervous when I first started math centers, but it has been so great. The kids love the centers, especially doing the hands-on activities and games.


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