*A blog post on math centers.*

I wanted to share a switch I made during my math time.

I started the year off with rotations, where I’d teach a small group of students a lesson and rotate them through until I’d taught the lesson {5 times through} to all 25 kids. I had seen so many teachers do such a wonderful job rotating their students around and getting to meet with small groups. I was determined to do the same. And I did! And it worked!

**And then…**

*Some days I didn’t have time to get to each group

*I felt rushed to get through all the groups and only spend 5 minutes with them on a lesson

*My kids would just die if we didn’t do math rotations

*I got tired of teaching the same lesson 5 times in the hour…honestly

*I may have also gotten a little lazy trying to come up with new centers

*every*dayAfter looking to see how you other wonderful teacher/bloggers do you math time, I caught on.

THANKFULLY, I still do math centers, but it now looks totally different and I feel like it is more effective for my students and less strenuous on me.

**Before Centers**

I start with a whole group lesson {about 10-20 minutes, depending on what we are learning}. We do our usual teacher-talk/guided practice/independent practice cycle.

As I watch/help with guided practice and independent practice, I take some notes on who’s getting it and who’s not. My notes may look like this:

{I love student numbers by the way, but that’s a whole ‘nother post}.

This is an example from when we were doing our quick check practice, the students were working on double digit subtraction. I did 10 problems on whiteboards and jotted down who was getting them wrong.

After our independent practice or quick check, I start them in a center. I usually let them pick where they would like to start {as long as there are no more than 5 in a group}. If it’s a rush kind of day, I just place them in a center, no ifs ands or buts. If I care a lot that week, I pick their groups ahead of time {you know, to be more organized}.

**Centers**

In the centers, I like to have review concepts that students can work on for a sustain amount of time {15-20 minutes}.

I always include a center for timed-math facts {I don’t grade my students on knowing their facts, but the faster and better they are, the better they will do with later concepts like double digit addition and subtraction as well as multiplication}.

I also always include a center that focuses on what we are learning right then {we usually spend 2/3 weeks on a single concept}.

We have a variety of centers like graphing, comparing numbers, time, fact families…whatever I feel like my kiddos need review on {I make or get all my products from the amazing teachers on TpT}. Check out some of my FAV math centers at the end of this post.

Here are just some of the things we do:

Here are just some of the things we do:

**During Centers**

Remember my awesome sticky note with my kids’ numbers on them??? While my students are independently working in the centers, I pull out 2-5 of those struggling students to work with me specifically on the skill for the center time {15-20 minutes}. They get me the WHOLE time and even though they hang their heads in shame when I pull them out, they leave with a pep in their step, knowing they were really the lucky ones 😉 The less kids in a group the better in my eyes! I get more one-on-one time with them and it works really well.

This is an example of something I do with my small group, highlighting the bigger number to remember to regroup or not. My other kiddos are just trained to star, but the more elaborate you are with it, the better it sticks with some kids.

Now back to the centers, I only do ONE center per day. This way, I don’t really have to deal with transitions around the room or having to create new centers daily. I use those 5 centers for a week and switch them out at the end of the week {some centers come back the next week if it’s loved or it will be seen after a few weeks for more practice}.

**Why I love this method of teaching math???**

*I only have to pull one group a day

*I get to focus on 2-5 students a day who are struggle and let the rest move on {and yes, sometimes I see the same little guy in the group

*every*day…}*We get to practice our other math skills too {always reviewing}

*I only have to pull the kids who need the help

*I don’t get tired of teaching the same lesson, because I really only have to teach it once and then review it with a small group

*It is more meaningful work time

Here are some of my favorite centers to use during math time {click on the pictures to take you to the product}:

How do you work your math time? I’d love to hear more ideas of what works in your classroom.

Sarah Young says

I am so glad you blogged about this. I get asked all the time if I do centers and how I do them. I LOVE doing small groups, but I refuse to spend a lot of time setting up different centers each week. That is a lot of prep, and I feel that it can take away from individual student instruction. So, my centers look A LOT like yours. I start out with a mini group whole lesson and then pull the kiddos I need to see(maybe it's my high group and I want to push them or maybe its my lows who need more one on one time OR maybe its my kids that just need some more practice and a little guidance). The rest I send to centers. I usually keep the same centers for a whole month.

Thanks for making me feel better about how I run my centers. Such a good post.

-Sarah

A Rocky Top Teacher

Anonymous says

This has helped me tremendously as a new teacher! Thank you for posting about your centers and how you go about teaching math. Wonderfully brilliant.

Pam says

Great post! Where did you get your fact family triangles from?

Jen says

Highlights magazine 🙂

Cecilia Heimuli says

What do have the your students do when they finish the very quickly?

Jen says

Depending on what we are doing at the time, they have options for different centers, reading, or even helping a friend!

Lacia Sadler says

I think I would like to try this but we are required to fit in a math computer based learning program that is recommended for 20 minutes a day. How would you fit that in your daily math schedule? We only have 5 computers in the room with at least 20 students. Thanks for any suggestions!!

Jen says

I would definitely use that as a math center/station. It would have to be a rotation of sorts, where your students would spend 20 mins in each station to accommodate for the computer time. I’m not sure how long your math block is, but trying to rotate them all through sounds like a lot of time per day (that’s at least 80 mins). If you have that large of a block, I would suggest that. Not sure if you have a computer lab you can block 20 mins a day from. If you’re really organized and you don’t have a large math block, you’d have to find another way to rotate those students through (instead of free time, etc.).

Sabrina says

I love how you do your math centers but how do you allow them to choose their center? Does this take too much time away? And how do you keep track of where they go or have gone?

Jen says

I assign my centers to keep it organized and they rotate through with their group 🙂 I have a chart that I rotate each day and once the groups have gotten all the way through (usually in a week), I switch out some centers.

Stephanie says

Love the idea of actually teaching a mini lesson for 20 minutes and assessing who actually needs to extra teacher time. I may have misunderstood, can you clarify? You only do one center after teaching the mini lesson? Meaning, you have multiple groups doing the same activity? And you switch the activity each day during that week? This year my grade lvl has departmentalized. I have math, so I’m trying to figure out how to run some smooth math centers! Thanks 🙂

Jen says

To clarify, I would do a mini-lesson with the whole class and a “check for understanding” to decide who needs extra help.

Next, I pull the kids who needed the extra support and the rest of the students are in assigned groups. Their groups would rotate among the centers for the week (one center a day). So I would switch out centers every two weeks or so, or when I felt like the students were bored 😉

Jessica says

Love this! This is exactly what we are switching to this coming cycle. I’m glad to hear your personal success! I went through the same frustrations of rotating all groups every day.

So you have 4 centers (aside from you) that are all different, correct? Or do all of those 4 centers have the same activity?

Jessica says

Also, how does your documentation look like for these intervention groups?

Jen says

Do you mean proof of learning? Annotated notes? Or how you assess them to come into the group?

Jen says

I have 4 activities and the students rotate through them throughout the week 🙂

Jennifer says

HI! Do you have some sort of management board for the centers? Something that shows who is in which group and where they go? I used to have this but it was a lot of work! I like you ideas 🙂 And would love to implement this year. I just need to know how to keep track of who goes where! Thanks!

Jen says

Honestly, I use a pocket chart! I just laminated some square papers that say “Math Tub 1” “Math Tub 2”, then also laminated some papers that say “Group 1” “Group 2” etc, wrote the student names on those. Then I just switch the groups daily (or have a student do it for me)! I know that Amber from A Peppy Zesty Teacherista has a good math rotations board too!

Kate Shivers says

I love your post. Thank you for the great ideas and for the validation!! I find centers daunting because of the transitions and chaos that can erupt. But I think with your post I am getting more confident. This is such a great community of teachers. Thank you.

Jen says

Wow thank you so much 🙂

Devon says

How long do you spend in this center time for math everyday? You said originally each center was 15-20 minutes then switched to try to reach each group, this is what I was doing at the beginning of the year and by November it just wasn’t working for me either… I would like to try it your way, but if your only doing 1 center a day, then it sounds like your not spending as much time in center time.. ??

Jen says

You are correct. I don’t spend as much time in centers. I will pull only the lowest performing students for that particular lesson, who I quick check that do not understand. Then I spend the 20/30 minutes solely with them.

Tricia says

May I ask how you assess students? Do you give homework over the lesson you taught that day?

Jen says

I usually give some type of exit slip every day or week to check for understanding. Formal assessments are mid-unit and end of unit.

Or sometimes I just give a problem on a whiteboard and take note on who “has it” and who doesn’t.

teacher of 2nd says

So my second grade teaching partners all do the math worksheets in the manual and there are 4 lessons that they want to do each week (each lesson has 4 pages- so thats 16 pages a week that they do). How would I incorporate that into this model of centers because we all know that whole group is NOT working to just sit and do the worksheets… I personally do not like worksheets that much! I thought about doing the worksheets as a center but if they only do that particular center once a week then they would do all lessons in a day?!? Thats just not a good idea LOL