February 22, 2013
Teachers, coaches, and supervisors will learn how to help elementary school students build mathematical proficiency with the standards-based, differentiated, small-group instruction strategies in Guided Math in Action: Building Each Student's Mathematical Proficiency with Small-Group Instruction. Dr. Nicki Newton provides lots of actual templates, graphic organizers, black-line masters, detailed lesson plans, and student work samples. In this tip, Dr. Nicki shares seven must-have centers that can be used in an elementary school math class.
- Basic Fact Center
You want to be sure to have a center where students can practice their basic math facts. In this center, they can quiz each other on flash cards or sort the flash cards by specific strategies.
- Hot Topics Review Center
In this center students review all the skills that they have worked on during the year so far and even skills from the previous year. Students practice money, time, rounding, graphing, and concepts skills in this center. Sometimes I tell the students what they have to work on in this center, but often I let them choose their own topics. I tell them to think about what they need to practice and get better at doing.
- Geometry Center
Students often will say that anything that isn’t green and equilateral isn’t a triangle or that any hexagon that doesn’t look like the one in the pattern blocks box isn’t a hexagon. So you need to have plenty of center activities that deepen their understanding of the attributes of two-dimensional shapes. I encourage teachers to put up a geometry center with Play-Doh, paint, blocks, and scaffolded activities where students can build and explore the attributes of shapes at a more complex level as the year progresses.
- Word Problem Center
In a problem-solving center, students can explore problems at the concrete, pictorial, and abstract level. They can take their time, think about the problems, and act them out with manipulatives, felt, and magnets. They can also write about their problem-solving process and model their thinking. I highly encourage teachers to have a problem-solving center with problems that take more than two minutes to solve.
- Math Poem Center
This is a fun interdisciplinary center. I believe in using math poems, math songs, and math picture books. In this center, students work on a project associated with one of these things that we are doing in class. For instance, they might work on individual versions of a poem or a story. They could also be working on a class math Big Book of a story or poem. They might be working on number writing. Poems help math to come alive.
- Math Journal Center
A math journal center can have students doing very powerful work. In the math journal, the students can explore concepts, work on projects, and really do some high-quality thinking. I encourage teachers to think of math journals as thinking notebooks that help students grapple with mathematical issues. Interactive math journals are an excellent tool for students to showcase their thinking. In these math journals, students make flipbooks, and accordion foldouts and pop-up illustrations of vocabulary to illustrate the math topics they are studying.
- Math Vocabulary Center
Math is a language and students need to know the words to be able to speak it. When teachers tell students to use their math words, they need to know which words to use. A math vocabulary center offers many ways to practice the words from prior units of study as well as engage with the words from the current unit of study. The students can play bingo, tic-tac-toe, match, and concentration as well as do word finds and crossword puzzles. There are also web 2.0 sites where they can make digital math vocabulary flash cards and play math vocabulary games.