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The Ultimate Guide to Math Centers

“How’d you like to learn about a way to keep your kids engaged while they’re reviewing math skills?”

“Better yet, what if I said you could meet the needs of all your students at the same time?”

Well, you’re in for a special treat.

I’m writing a 5-part blog series about this very topic.

One major way to review math skills that you’ve already taught is, drumroll please:

M-A-T-H   C-E-N-T-E-R-S!

the ultimate guide to math centers

Before we go any further, I want to let you in on a secret…when center time is done right you’ll see high levels of student engagement and meaningful practice…HOWEVER, when done wrong center time can be a time of major frustration for you and your kids.

And this is the reason why many teachers avoid center time like the plague. (Been there)

I’m here to tell you that you can have effective math centers in your classroom. Don’t worry! I’ve got you covered.

This series covers ALL major aspects of math centers.

Part 1Planning for Math Centers

Part 2Organizing Math Centers

Part 3Managing Math Centers

Part 4How to Make Center Time Meaningful

Part 5Troubleshooting Your Centers

Let’s kick this thing off and talk about why you should be doing centers in the first place.

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Doing Math Centers

Reason #1: Math Centers Differentiate Experiences for Kids

Every time I ask teachers what’s their biggest math struggle, the number one response is “how to meet the needs of all my students”.

Does this sound familiar? I know it’s something I constantly had on my mind.

In my early teaching career, I was told “Differentiate. Differentiate. Differentiate”. Here’s the thing. Nobody told me exactly how to do it.

Differentiation is a very broad term and can be overwhelming. Let me break it down a little bit.

There are three major buckets of differentiation: product, process and content.

  1. Product – how kids choose to learn
  2. Process – how kids make sense of what they learn
  3. Content – what kids learn

Meaning there are sooo many ways to differentiate instruction.

…BUT this is where centers really shine.

Math centers can be used to differentiate:

  • through product – allow for student choice (i.e. choice boards, multiple activities, select a task)
  • through process – provide ways for students to make sense of the content (i.e. partner talk, journaling, prompts)
  • through content – provide a variety of ways to learn/review/explore (i.e. manipulatives, games, open-ended tasks)

Effective centers support different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) and provide a variety of ways for children to explore content.

Reason #2: Math Centers Allow for Ongoing Practice

The best thing about centers is that they give students extra time to practice previously taught skills.

As we all know, all the kids in your classroom do not master skills simultaneously. Some may get it the same day you teach it, while others may get it a few weeks later.

The right centers will give your kids sufficient practice in the areas they need versus random activities.

Reason #3: Math Centers Gives You Time to Work with a Teacher Led Small Group

This is where I saw the most gains with my students. No joke!

If you are constantly trying to find the time to work with your struggling students or you want to push some of your kids to the next level, THIS IS THAT TIME.

When you get your math centers to the point where everything is running smoothly, you’ll be able to pull small groups of students to work with on the things that they need. And you’ll see your students grow!

Hopefully you are now amped up and want to get started with math centers ASAP.

You may be thinking right now,

“How do I get started with all of this?” or “I use math centers but I want to get even better,”

…then you will love my next post because it’s all about planning for your centers.

Next topic: Planning for Math Centers 

Take a deeper dive into math centers NOW with my course Math Centers 101.  I walk you through all the aspects to be successful with centers. Click here to learn more.

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