Math Centers: Find out how I plan and teach math in my kindergarten classroom. I give you some tips and advice for running successful math centers.
Today I wanted to take a deep-dive into math centers. Providing my students with rich, hands-on learning opportunities for math is a critical aspect of my classroom.
It is important to have a variety of materials and centers available to your students. They can explore and learn at their own pace, and discover their interests.
Ensuring that you have tools available to your students is also critical to their success. You want them to know what is available to them (number charts, learning goals, etc.) and how to use them.
I put together this post to go over how I run my math centers, and to give you some tips and tricks. Please note: every class is different, every student is different, every teacher is different. What works for one- might not work for another. This is just what has worked for me in my experience.
I like to have an overview of the math concepts I am going to be teaching over the year. It is very basic, and guides what I will be doing each month.
For example- in September, I know that I am going to be doing Number Sense and Sorting. In October, I continue with sorting and move into patterning. All the strains are in a chart that I can look at and reference when I need to.
I do not break them out into daily/weekly plans. I need the flexibility of being able to spend more or less time on each strand depending on the needs of my students.
It’s also important to do in the moment teaching as well. If my students show an interest in shapes or addition in some way- I will change gears. You have to still be responsive to them and their needs.
Hands-on Math Centers
Keep my students engaged in math centers is always top of my mind. I do not want them to be bored- I want them to be excited! Letting them explore and learn with hands-on materials is the best way that I have found to keep them engaged.
When they are able to manipulate and explore on their own, it is easier for students to understand math concepts. Teaching them using centers that they can explore, is better than just using worksheets or lessons.
I like to have a supply of generic, easy activities that I can pull out throughout the year without much effort. These centers are easy for my students to understand, and I can reuse them without having to re-explain them.
I designed my Easy Print and Prep Centers with this in mind, I wanted to make sure I could just pull them out and use them whenever. This makes planning easy for me, I just pull out the activities I’m going to need- and I’m ready to go.
Add interests and themes throughout the year to review or reinforce skills in your math centers as well. During the fall, my students are usually excited about Halloween, or pumpkins. So I will add some themed activities to my plans.
Re-use Year After Year
During my first year of teaching, I always felt overwhelmed. Prepping and planning for every math strain took so much time. It does get easier every year since you can re-use your activities from the previous year.
This is why I like to stay organized and sort my centers based on skill. It makes my life so much easier the next year when I don’t have to be searching for everything.
One of the great things about being on Instagram– I take pictures of my centers, and I can look back on what I did. My suggestion for you- write down or take pictures of the centers that you do so you can look back and remember what you did.
Math centers do get easier year after year, but my first few years I relied on other kindergarten teachers to help me out. They lent me activities and materials so that I did not have to make up everything as I went.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your co-workers! They are an amazing resource and can help support you when you need it.
Have a Mix of Math Centers
I like to use different types of centers when teaching math concepts to my students:
- open materials: these are just items that students get to freely explore and use on their own (like loose parts). There is no adult intent, just what students decide to do with it.
- provocations: these are centers that are set up by a teacher for students to explore. The materials are intentionally selected to evoke exploration, but students use the materials as they wish.
- intentional centers: these are activities that are set up by a teacher and have a specific way for students to use them.
- guided groups: this is also a teacher-led center, the activity is carefully selected to teach a specific skill.
I use a mix of all these types of centers when I teach each math strain. They are all so important.
Think of the different spaces available in your classroom as well- how can you incorporate math into your building center, sensory bin, dramatic play? These are all areas where rich math learning can take place.
Set Learning Goals
Another important aspect of running successful math centers is setting learning goals with your students. They need to know what they are working on, and how they can be successful.
I usually put up some posters outlining the skill we are learning so that they can look to it for help when needed. You can see an example of the types of posters I use in my Measurement blog post.
We also discuss our learning goals and success criteria as a class so that they all have an understanding of them.
If you want to know more about how my kindergarten classroom runs, you can check out My Ultimate Guide to Kindergarten Centers. It has everything you will ever need to know!
Do you have any tips or advice for making the most of your math time? Let me know in the comments!