Here are ten math center tips and tricks that will help math centers flow more smoothly in your classroom!
#1: Choose games that are easy to repeat.
Anytime you choose games that you can repeat each week (but with a different skill), you spend less time talking about rules every time you put out new centers.
Some of my favorites include:
-Holiday Themed Games
#2: Take advantage of parent volunteers!
If you have parents that are willing to help out in your classroom, have them come in for math centers! I have a few that are a HUGE help to my students and do a great job making sure my lower ability students get the practice they need and my higher students understand the enrichment activities that I assign.
#3: Assign student helpers to assist you
I use something called Teacher Clips in my classroom and they are a HUGE life saver!! I give a “teacher clip” to the four friends who I think would be the best teacher helpers during math that day. Anytime a student has a question about something during math centers, they have to go ask at least two of my teacher helpers before coming to interrupt me with my group at the back table. My kids and I both LOVE this concept. I typically choose my teacher helpers based on which kids were the most on-task the day before during centers or the kids that do a good job in the morning during morning work before we start math centers.
#4: Laminate EVERYTHING!
Anytime I can laminate something to reuse again the next year, I do! Now that I’ve been doing this a few years, I just have to pull out the centers that I used in previous years and am ready to roll!
#5: Make math center time with your small group longer when necessary.
I always meet with my low group FIRST. That way, these students can get a little extra time with me if I need to extend their center time. These students benefit from the extra time with me while my high group won’t miss those few extra minutes.
#6: Circle the room while working with high kids.
When students come to the back table to work with me, I assign each of my groups the same center work. To learn more about why I do this, click here. My high kids typically pick up our independent work much easier than my lower group. My high group is normally able to complete their Teacher Time activity with very few directions from me. During the time that my high group is with me, I take an opportunity to circle the room and also check in with my lower students while they’re working on their other math centers.
#7: Use photo boxes from Amazon or Michaels to organize your games and task cards!
These amazing little boxes are great for keeping you organized when you have to change out your centers. I have tried manilla folders, paper bags, and plastic bags but the photo boxes are the BEST investment I have ever made!
#8: Have clear expectations how to clean up each math center.
I have my students complete math centers for about 18 minutes at each station. They also get about 2 minutes to clean up their center and move onto the next one. They know exactly where the centers need to go back and how to clean it up properly. We have a lot of discussions at the beginning of the year about how to NOT throw all of the pieces back into the box, how to make sure you have cleaned up all of your pieces, and to make sure you put the box back where you found it. A lot of reminders and practice drills at the beginning of the year talking about this helps them stay on track the rest of the year.
#9: Give your students CHOICE in what they want to do!
When you give your students some choice in what math centers they can go to, they are more invested in their own learning. I use something called Choice Charts that allows my students some choice in what they’d like to practice. You can read more about them here and download them for FREE here.
#10: Do what works for you!
Math centers are not going to look identical in every classroom! Do what works for you! If you want to do three math centers a day, do it! If only two math centers a day is good for you, that’s okay! Some teachers like to have 20 centers to rotate between each cycle and some only have five. No matter what you choose, don’t overwhelm yourself. Choose what works best for you and your students will also appreciate it!
I hope these math center tips and tricks helped you prepare to start math centers in your own classroom! Let me know if there’s something else you’d like me to blog about relating to math centers!
Want to learn MORE about math centers? Check out these blog posts!