I know, I know…blogs about why we should include math centers in grade 6, 7 and 8 are nothing new. You have read it all before. But my take on this topic is that Math Centers are not just benefit in the junior grades, but instead they are a MUST. In fact, including math centers in my program is one of 5 math rules.
Math Rule # 2 – Teach with Math Centers
Kids have attention spans of about 5 minutes, especially after school shutdowns and online learning. I have always used math centers in my classroom, but they seem more valuable than ever these days, especially in the junior classroom.
how math centers will help your junior students
1) Math Centers are fun and engaging, so they actually want to practice!
2) They offer collaborative opportunities, where students get to work with peers to problem solve and tackle challenging tasks
3) You are able to give your students move attention, as you have the time to hold individual conferences or small group meetings (focused on skills instead of ability level, to avoid unintentional streaming of students)
4) Centers also offer a variety of different ways to practice a skill, hitting a variety of learning styles.
5) Lastly allow your students to show what they know, in a way that makes sense for them and provide you with a variety of assessment opportunities – observation, conversations and products, rather than just assignments and tests
How are my math centers set up?
I personally like to create open rotations for my students. This means that the students can start at a particular center and move through it at their own pace. Students who finish more quickly can be helpers for those who are struggling.
As mentioned above, while students are working at their center, I take the time to either call a group over to work with them on a particularly difficult task. Other times, I will leave myself available to allow students to join me after realizing, through self assessment of their understanding, that they need some support.
What do I include in my math centers?
I like to mix things up by including a variety of activities, strategies, skills and concepts, so that my students don’t become bored. The idea of using an acronym like MATH to keep things consistent is great, but unfortunately I haven’t found that to work for myself or my students. I am always thinking things like, “Where would this fit in?” or, “I can’t use this this week because I already have a technology center”. Each set of rotations are completely unique just like my kiddos.
Some Math Center Examples
Math games that are related to the skill being taught. I do not assign prodigy or other video games during this time. Instead I use digital games that have been created specifically for whatever it is that we are learning. Escape rooms, matching games, question generators (like in this fractions lesson and activity bundle), etc.!
Problem Solving –
This is a must! Children need to see how the math they are learning is actually important in their lives. No one loves the question “when are we ever going to need this?!”
Collaborative Tasks –
Also a must. Let your students talk and explore together. This can be any form of learning: practice questions, games, number talk, more problem solving, etc.
Task Cards –
Task cards may not be the most exciting, but they are good practice. I like to offer ones that increase in difficulty over time, like these algebra task cards and these task cards about angles.
Hands on Practice –
Another must…(there seems to be a lot of those). Technology games are great, but hands-on practice is just as important. Take this body proportions measurement activity. No tech learning can match that! There are so many opportunities in math to get our kids up and moving. I choose that type of math class!
Lesson Review –
I send my students all of my lessons through Google Classroom. I do this so that they have the learning available to them at all times (during centers and at home). On trickier concepts, I give them time to review the lesson together in their groups. They can even go back and review other concepts during this time too. Check out the blog about my FREE rounding sample of these lesson and activities sets and MORE here!
I could go on and on!
Including math center rotations is rule # 2 of my 5 junior grade math rules! Check out the other 4 here.