My students tell me that math stations (or math rotations) is their favourite subject in school. That’s high praise! What is it that they enjoy? Let’s look at the components of these types of centres. Though I am looking at activities for primary grades, this works in upper grades, as well.
I have a pdf entitled, Teach Math Like A Boss, available to you. It has some of my best ideas for rocking it as a math teacher, regardless of the elementary grade. Click over to the side to get yours now!
Difference Between Math Stations, Rotations and Centres
I’ve been asked if there is a difference between all these names, and my response would be yes and no (sorry, I’m not helping). Teachers do have their own definitions of the three, but I’ve done some research (Facebook Math Groups) and here is what I’ve come up with.
Centres: kindergarten teachers seem to prefer using this word. Centres are student-led. They may change seasonally or stay the same, depending on the centre.
Stations/Rotations: the general consensus is that these two are interchangeable. These seem to be more teacher-directed and at each station or rotation, students are learning a specific skill.
Choice Boards/Playlists: in our online communities, teachers have created opportunities to participate in stations virtually with choice boards or playlists. I create a weekly choice board for students but mine isn’t math specific. But the feedback I receive from both students and parents is very positive.
With regards to playlists, I haven’t heard this term used for math, but the Math Viking has a blog post on her site that I recently read. I like the “must do/choose to do” components. This also reminds me of Daily 3, which is a whole other blog post (let me know if you want one).
How Often Do I Have Math Stations or Rotations?
Okay, I’m just going to say “stations” from now on. My math program is set up that there is a large formal lesson on Mondays, 3 days of math stations and Fridays is Math Games. I love this system. On Friday’s games day I teach the games that will be going into the stations for the following weeks.
Materials to Use
For those new to math stations and rotations, it will be a bit overwhelming trying to get all the stations set up. When I started I set up just 3. I broke the class into 3 groups (which were large) but my intention was to get them comfortable with the idea of independent or small group work and rotating. My first three stations were: Meet with Miss Harold, independent desk work and partner games. They have already learned the games from the previous Friday, so it’s about me getting them in groupings that I can teach smaller groups of similar ability. Choose how you want to group students.
I like to create theme stations. If I’m teaching number sense, all stations and activities are about number sense. This works great with multi-grade classes, too! For years I’ve taught a grade one and two class and the major curricular objectives are similar. Your themes can range from a couple weeks to a couple months. If I’m doing a longer theme, I will change up the math games.
Again, if you are a fairly new teacher, then borrow materials. Most schools have resource centres. I utilize public libraries for my “Read About Math” station. If you are going to buy materials, choose to buy for your bigger units first.
I have a math stations resource almost ready for Teachers Pay Teachers. It has board ideas, labels, resource ideas for K-2 math topics. I will update this post when it is available. If you want to read more of this “Teach Like A Boss” series, feel free to start with the first post. You can find it here.
If you have any questions regarding math stations or rotations, pop them in the comments section. I read and respond to all comments!