Then one day I attended a workshop on implementing math centers, and within an hour I was hooked! I had several big "ah-ha" moments at that workshop:
- Without using centers, I wasn't truly differentiating math instruction. Yes, I was actively engaging my students with hands-on activities and cooperative learning lessons. However, my struggling students weren't getting extra help and my gifted students weren't really being challenged.
- Math center activities don't have to be elaborate, expensive, or time-consuming. Math A math center can be as simple as a packet of directions and materials. Students take the packet to their desks or to a spot on a rug and work alone or with a partner. That's it!
- The secret to super math centers is organization! I also learned the importance of establishing procedures and making sure students knew what was expected of them. I realized that I needed to learn how to create math center activities, how to store materials, how to have students record their work, what assignments to grade, and so on.
Baby Steps with Math CentersSo in typical fashion, I did a little planning and then jumped right in! Because I was teaching upper elementary students, I chose to use the term "math stations," but I now use the terms "stations" and "centers" interchangeably. Taking baby steps with the concept, I created some simple math games and developed the storage system you see on the right. It's nothing more than a sweater organizer with center materials on each shelf. I divided my math class in half - 30 minutes for whole group instruction (using cooperative learning) and 30 minutes of math centers. In general, students worked on the activities in pairs which left me free to teach a small group or work one-on-one with students who needed extra help.
What happened next amazed me! Instead of creating chaos in the classroom as I had imagined. I discovered that centers helped my students become even more focused on math instruction! They enjoyed the social aspects of working together and helping each other, and it was obvious that they were very much on task and learning. Students who had been frustrated and discouraged in math suddenly became relaxed and confident.
It took some time for me to figure out the best way to organize and manage math centers, so I created a page called Math Centers and Stations on Teaching Resources to share these ideas.You can also find free math center games on that page as well as on this blog. Lately I've discovered that many other teachers have great resources for math centers, so I created the Link Up below as a place where others can share ideas. I hope you enjoy these resources!