Everyone looks for different things in a math center.
Some teachers don't mind cutting out bits and pieces. Others love to have activities that match their theme or the season perfectly.
Me, I hate cutting out cards and game pieces. Plus I like to use my games any time of the year.
After all, I may need that cute Halloween themed game to help revise a tricky concept with some students in December.
So when choosing math centers there are six things I like to keep in mind:
1. Centers should be made for your grade level.
When you purchase a math center that covers a range of grade levels, you can't be sure that you'll be covering the standards you need.
Will the center be too easy or hard for your students?
Third grade work isn't suitable for a first grader. No one wants frustrated students asking for help at a math center. After all, this is time for you to work with a small group of students without interruption.
2. A center should be able to be used at any time of the year.
Graphics on a center add to its appeal but is it the right graphic? When a center has a cute snowman on it and you're teaching that concept in spring, will you want to use it?
If your kids forget how to do something in math, you need to be able to pull out the perfect activity. You don't want to worry about the graphics.
I like to be able to revise number facts with my first graders all year long. Rather than choose games based on their graphics it makes more sense to choose them based on the skill they cover.
3. Centers should have consistent, easy to follow rules.
How much time do you have to teach students the rules of each center activity?
Not much I imagine.
When you can have math centers with similar rules and expectations, it makes your job easier. You only need to introduce the rules once and revise them as needed. Students can go to the center and you can be confident that they will be able to get straight to the job of learning.
4. Can you differentiate the math center?
Not every child is at the same level for every math concept. This means it's not always a good idea to only group students according to their ability level. When a group of students can play the one game but have different requirements that are aimed at their level, you are differentiating according to their needs.
How can you do this? Assign a recording sheet that suits individual students.
5. Is there a way to make sure children have actually completed their task?
I'll be the first to admit that I have run some math centers where my student's only goal was to win. They were rolling the die and moving the marker but no one was giving answers.
Winning was all important!
Recording sheets give the game a purpose. And that purpose is to learn. If kids record answers, they're going to be learning. You'll also know who needs more work on that concept by looking at the recording sheet.
6. Students need rigorous practice of the standards.
Games are fun but the idea behind the game is to have fun while learning and consolidating concepts. Students should show they can use what they've been taught independently. They also need to show they can think critically to move through the game.
First Grade Math Centers
When I want a math center, I want games and acitivites that are quick and easy to put together (no cutting involved). I want choices about how much color ink I use, whether it's full color, limited color or black ink copies.
When I'm working on making a center for others as well I consider these things and if it ticks the boxes then it's added to the list.
Love a Freebie?
Freebies are great. You can grab this game and start using it in your math centers right away!
If easy prep, appropriate year level, consistent and easy to follow rules are what you look for in a center too, then these rigorous but fun centers may be just the thing for you.
And they're available for second grade as well, just click on the photos to take a look.