# 10 Tips for Successful Math Centers

How would you like to have math centers that run smoothly, promote independence, and set students up for success?

Sounds great right!?!?

Today I am sharing 10 tips for math center success! These are all things I have done to make math centers a positive learning experience in my classroom.

## Be Realistic

How many new math centers can you really create, set up, and explain each week?

How many math centers are realistic to expect students to complete (and do well) each week?

We don’t want to overwhelm or overextend ourselves or our students! That just makes math centers stressful for everyone!

I recommend starting small with a few math center options and building on it as the year goes on.

## Choose Familiar Activities

Choose math center activities that stay consistent all year.

Having familiar activities reduces the time students need to spend figuring out HOW to do the work or activity in the math center.

This allows students to spend MORE time on the activity and math skills involved.

## Student Choice in Math Centers

Giving students choice in the activities they complete or how they complete them always increases engagement and success!

Giving students some control over their learning promotes independence and responsibility.

You might provide students with a menu of options and tell them they need to complete a certain number of activities by the end of the week. This gives them a choice in which activities they do.

You could require students to complete all of the math center activities, but give them choice in which math center they work on each day.

Another way to provide choice is to let students choose how to complete the math center. They could choose to work independently or with a partner. They might have a choice between practicing math facts with flashcards, a worksheet, a game, or on a website.

## Self Paced Math Centers

Making math center time self-paced really increased the success level of math centers in my classroom.

When I had students rotating centers in set time block increments, I would always have students who did not finish, or who were stressed about working quickly enough to finish in time. And I also had some kids who finished quickly, then had nothing to do.

Students all work at different paces, even when they are 100% on task.

Trying to force a math center activity into a set 15 or 20-minute time frame just wasn’t working.

When I switched my math centers to be self-paced, student stress and anxiety over getting things done in a set amount of time disappeared! And the amount of time on task really increased!

Tell students how many centers they need to complete in a week. Some centers may take them longer. Some may be quicker math centers. One day they may only get one math center done, but on another day they may get 2 or 3 math centers done.

Allowing kids to work at their own pace also builds self-regulation and time management skills.

## Plan Ahead for Math Center Partners

Some math center activities are best done individually. Other math center activities only work when you have a partner, like many games.

Instead of having kids search out a partner each time they go to a math center that requires a partner, I like to pre-select or set up partnerships ahead of time.

Then, when it is time to do a partner activity, students don’t have to waste any time trying to find a partner to work with or worry about finding someone to work with them.

I rotate these partnerships on a weekly or monthly basis, so students get to work with a variety of classmates. Working with a variety of partners also gives them the opportunity to learn from many different classmates and interact with peers they may not typically work with.

## Provide Engaging Math Center Activities

Let’s face it, most kids aren’t going to get excited and be engaged with a traditional worksheet or workbook pages.

Would you be?

But, if you take some of the exact same problems from the worksheet and set it up as a matching activity, BOOM, it is a hit!

You could also take that basic worksheet, cut apart the problems, and glue them on index cards to make task cards to hang around the room. Suddenly, a boring activity becomes highly engaging!

Any activity where kids can manipulate items, play games, move around, communicate about math, and self-correct are always winners in my classroom.

## Use Old Skills and New Skills

I like to plan my math center activities so that kids are working on older skills we have already covered and the current skill we are working on.

If all of your math centers focus on the current topic of study, kids who aren’t yet secure with that skill or topic will have a harder time being successful in completing the math center activity independently.

By using previously covered skills in your math center activities you will provide a spiral review of skills for your students and help set them up for success working independently.

I try to have at least half of my math center activities each week focus on previously covered skills.

## Accountability in Math Centers

It is important to plan for some way to hold students accountable for the work they complete in math centers.

This can be as simple as turning in a completed activity sheet or an exit slip where students summarize what they worked on that day.

You could also have students keep a written record of the work they do in math centers. This could be a checklist, a menu, or a booklet where they record their answers/work in each center.

The level of accountability you need will vary greatly from class to class, so you may need to experiment to see what works best for you.

## Plan for Early Finishers

You will always have students who finish their math center work early.

If they are finished and have nothing to do, they will find something to do. And it may or may not be an activity that is a good use of their time!

It is very important to have a solid plan and expectations for early finishers.

Some of the activities I like to have as early finisher activities are:

- math puzzles
- open ended math tasks
- practicing math facts
- math games
- math projects
- independent math investigations
- math apps and websites

Try out a set of open-ended math tasks with your students for FREE! Kids love the novelty of challenging problems and really come up with some great strategies to find a solution to the problems!

CLICK HERE to grab your FREE set of open-ended math tasks!

## Do What Works for You

You will hear and read all kinds of advice and ideas about what your math centers should include and look like.

Pinterest is full of beautiful images of colorful math centers and wonderfully laid-out activity menus.

All of those ideas, advice, and visuals are great, but they may or may not work with your teaching style and your class.

You have to do what works for you. There is no one correct way to do math centers successfully or one way they should look in every classroom.

You do you!

I hope these 10 tips for successful math centers were helpful. I hope they got you thinking about some of the ways you might want to set up and run math centers in your classroom.

If you would like to try any of the resources mentioned or pictured in this post, click on the links below.

Want to try out some of the resources from this post for FREE? Use these links to grab a free resource to try out with your students!

Math Clips- Add, Subtract, Multiply, and Divide- FREE RESOURCE LINK

## One Comment