Custom Search

Math Centers

Math Center Activity: Make 1

Math Centers provide an opportunity for students to practice and apply skills and strategies taught within the classroom. While students are engaged in purposeful centers, teachers have the opportunity to work individually or with small, flexible groups to meet the individual needs of students.

Centers should be designed to:

  • be an integral part of daily instruction for all children;
  • provide meaningful, independent practice based on the Standards, curriculum objectives and students’ needs;
  • include a variety of activities differentiated to meet the needs of students;
  • change regularly according to the needs of students;
  • hold students accountable for the work in which they are engaged;
  • allow teachers to assess students’ math skills, strategies and understandings.

Establishing Routines

It is important to build a community of learners so that students will be able to work independently at centers since you will be engaged with other students during this time. When introducing Centers for the first time it is important to:

  • communicate clear, explicit, high expectations and develop a few non-negotiable rules established jointly by both you and your students;
  • be available to assist students during center time and reinforce appropriate behaviors;
  • instruct, model and provide guided practice opportunities before placing new tasks in centers;
  • hold very brief ‘mini lessons’ every day prior to children going to centers focusing on how to use the equipment and materials, how to share materials, how to take turns, put things away etc. During this time you might have two students role-play the use of the materials while others critique their efforts or model how to solve a problem without teacher assistance (e.g. introduce the “Ask Three before Me” strategy to encourage students to ask three different classmates to help solve an issue during center time before coming to you with a problem).

Students can be scheduled at centers using either a rotation system or a self selected system. When using a rotation system a designated amount of time is given to each center before students may move on to the next. Using a self selected system students move themselves through centers in a systematic way, using contracts or planning sheets to record what activities have been completed.

Looking for ways to incorporate more writing into your centers? Download copies of these Reflection Templates and have them available to students during Math Centers sessions.

Types of Centers

Whenever possible center activities should be open-ended, allowing for multiple responses to allow students to learn in their zone of proximal development, and provide for a mixture of independent as well as paired tasks. In order to encourage students to talk with one another, problem solve together, and assist one another in their learning a center should generally have between two and six students.

One of the most simple types of centers to set up in K-2 is the Math Book Talk Center. The Math Book Talk Center should be a cozy, inviting space where students can browse, explore, talk about and read a variety of reading materials with a math focus, including story books, concept books, nonfiction books with photographs, poems, chants, rhymes, and books on tape stored in clearly labeled tubs (Counting Books, Shape Books, Pattern Books etc.) for easy access. See our Counting Rhymes E-book for ideas on how to use Counting Rhymes in your Math Centers.

The possibilities for math center activities are endless. For examples of a range of open-ended activities see the Number, Geometry, and Measurement/Data pages for your grade level. K-3 teachers may also like to explore our center activities for counting, numeration, addition and subtraction, and multiplication and division which are aligned with the Early Childhood Assessment in Mathematics (ECAM).

Return to Home Page