Math Rotations: Math Centers

Warning: Information Overload! I will have to say that Math Centers took me the longest out of any of these to wrap my head around, to practice with my kiddos, and the one that I am still working on perfecting. I will share what I have done so far, but please-pretty-please share your tips and strategies below!!

Math Centers

If you're like me, my typical math class was set up with Teacher Time and Lesson Work, just in a whole-group setting, so making those more small-group oriented was easy and delightful!

Math Centers were what always hung me up when it came to logistics, time management, work habits, building independence with my students, and on and on and on!!

So, I decided when I was going to take the plunge into Math Rotations, to over-prep Math Centers to death, because I was pretty sure that if the wheels were going to come off the bus, it would be when kids were in this center. By the way, is there such a thing as over-prepping? Oh well ;)

The first thing I did was buy these lovely shelves from Joann's during one of their big sales with free shipping. I love these darlings so much, the other set is for Word Work Centers. They are just delightful and keep the flow going in the class, so that was the start of keeping management issues at bay.

My next step was to think about purposeful center activities that would do several things:
  • Keep students engaged for 15-20 minutes
  • Require little prep-work on my end-- they had to last longer than a week, and preferably several, so variety was important, too
  • Easy directions for my kids to understand
  • Cover standards we just studied or ones that could always use some extra review
  • Cute and high-interest :) :)

Here's why some of those are important-- I, like all of you, are tired and pooped by the end of each week and the idea of making new centers all of the time was just not going to happen.

** Rule #1: In order for this whole Math Rotations idea to be successful, I needed it to be as easy on me as possible so I would be inspired to keep going. 

Drowning in printing, laminating, cutting, and copying specifically for these centers each week was not going to be the answer and is my quickest road to dropping the whole thing.

For me, what worked was the idea of seasons and I therefore created my Wintertime Math Centers {Spring, Summer and Fall are coming soon} to address all of my needs above and be cute and fun for third graders. These activities make up the meat & potatoes of our Math Centers work.

Click the picture to be taken to my TpT Store

I also wanted to incorporate some things we already do, so using our Word Work Centers seemed like a great idea. I did want them to practice different words, however-- not that there's anything wrong with more independent spelling word practice, I just wanted to shake things up a bit for them, so I instead use 3rd Grade CCSS-Aligned Math Vocabulary Cards on a binder ring:

I printed these front-back so it could save paper since there are over 100 terms
I put all 100+ on a binder ring (printed on front & back and laminated), or you could put out just the ones that address what you are studying and/or what you have already studied.... up to you :)

Now, my kids can practice Place Value Spelling or How Much is Your Word Worth? with new and interesting vocabulary drawn from our math lessons and get additional practice with math vocabulary all year long... can't beat that :)

How do I keep track of student work?

I keep this all organized in a very similar way to Word Work: A Bingo Board :)

At the beginning of each seasonal unit, I will put a Math Center Bingo Board on the top and staple all of the center work behind it for a "Math Centers Packet" they will use over the course of the next however many weeks you want. It's nice to be able to offer students the choice to go back and forth between center activity and Bingo activity to keep their engagement up.

My expectation/requirement is that, by the due date, they have one bingo and all of the center work complete-- any additional Bingos and/or Bingo squares are a bonus.

The items on the Bingo board are:

For Math Boggle, I simply laminated some die-cut circles and will write numbers with dry erase markers that  reflect the concept(s) we are working on. Kids will then choose two numbers that are next to each other (up-down,left-right, and/or diagonal) and solve with the circled operation on the sign. They record their work on a mini-dry erase board that I will check and give them a signature for:

For Dice Games, I use FANTASTIC freebies from Pitner's Potpourri and my own Multiplication Roll & Covers and these games are my kids' favorite!! I think because this is also one of the activities that require them to work with a partner, which is always fun :) To cut down on noise and lost dice, I use the dollar store mini-containers to keep the dice in:

Whew, that was a lot! There are definitely ideas in my head already for Part 2, 3, and maybe even 4. Hopefully, this starter post got you thinking of how you could make Math Centers work for you in your own unique classroom.

I am offering an *EDITABLE* Bingo Board in my TpT Store if you are interested-- it is a fully-editable PDF that will allow you to tweak the Math Centers Bingo to fit your own needs and your own choices in class. Check it out HERE if you're interested.

Thanks so much for sticking with me through this post! Let me know if you have any questions!


  1. I love doing math groups but I don't do them everyday or even every week. My kids jump for joy when we do though. You have great ideas. How about you just come and correct the things I do for about a month and get my started ;)

    1. Lol, I totally understand! Thanks so much for your kind comment and I am so glad to hear some of these ideas can help :)

  2. Guided Math is my preferred way of teaching math. When I taught 3rd grade, my centers were games that came with the district math series. I would preview the game in my teacher time, and then they could play it. Now that I am in 5th grade, I have found that doesn't quite work. Believe it or not, 5th graders have a harder time focusing on the work aspect of having partner centers. :) I work in a school that has mini laptops, so I use those in place of math centers.

    1. Wow, I am jealous of your mini-laptops. I could definitely see those increasing engagement for my kids and cutting WAY down on prep work for me :) I used to teach 5th, so I completely understand the partner issue, especially this time of year! Holy moly :) Thanks for stopping by, Emily!

  3. I LOVE Math Centers! I did them last year with my Third Graders and am missing them soooo much this year with my Firsties (our schedule kind of sucks in that regard and we're not able to do full fledge math centers, although I still incorporate it when I can, because I love them!) Keeping track of student work was always the hardest part though. I like the idea of the Bingo sheet. It sounds like you are definitely on the right track - doing great things! :)

  4. I am loving reading your whole series on math rotations. I've been so amazed at how it has completely changed my way of teaching math! I love rotations! Another thing that I do in "center time" (which I call my hands-on time) is to have my students use my iPods and iPads....yes, I'm very lucky. I've found that some of my students are prefering the other games more lately, though. So even with the technology, sometimes students prefer the "games" we've made for them. I like that you are making seasonal ones so that you don't have to kill yourself to get them completed each week. Smart!

    1. Oooo, I was just starting my next post on Fact Practice and we'll be using some iPads for that center soon (I just got my Donor's Choose grant funded- woo hoo!). You will definitely need to let me know what apps you are using :)

      Thanks, Elizabeth!

  5. Glad to have found this post! I teach 2nd grade and jumped right into using the Daily 5 structure for math in my classroom this past Monday. I was so over teaching math whole class and then sending my kids off to work independently on the same exact task. Not to mention, I could tell my kids were bored with it. Math was just BLAH! I decided to jump head first into restructuring my math time and I can definitely say that while there are still some kinks, it is working SO MUCH BETTER using small groups and rotations! I can't wait to read more about your math centers!

    That's So Second Grade

    1. Yay! You sound JUST like me :) :) Isn't is sososo much fun for not just the kids, but you?! Thanks for sharing!

    2. Love the rotations idea. Can u elaborate how the daily 5 works?

  6. I just found your Blog! HOORAY for me! I might be teaching Multi-age 2-3 next year, and you are starting to give me fantastic ideas for the fall (some I can apply now). THANK YOU!

    1. Thanks so much! I am so glad this series can help and I will be adding to it more and more as this year progresses and I get the kinks worked out :) Have a great Friday!

  7. Thank you so, so, so, so much for your Maths Centre's posts the past couple of weeks!!! I'll be heading in to Week #4 of the school year here in the land 'Down Under' and have been struggling to get my head around the split year levels (Grades 4 and 5), without compromising my strong ones who need extension and make sure the weak ones get the attention they really need.

    I've done split level classrooms before, but the children were on average more independent than the Year 4's I have in my class now (my year 5's are so awesomely independent when it comes to work), I have to keep reminding myself that they are STILL just out of Year 3 and need help in becoming more independent.

    Blah -rambling. Anywho, your Math posts have given me that push to do what you are doing with your kiddos, and I think it will succeed (fingers crossed)!

    Again - many, many thanks - such a life-saver!!!

  8. I just have a quick wondering...during the "Math Center Time" do your students do your Winter Math Pack and the Math BINGO or do they pick one?

    Thank you,
    Ms. Richards's Musings

  9. Love that you've shared all of this with us. I'm a little fuzzy on the Bingo board. Are there 24 separate activities that you plug into it? Could you possibly include a picture of what one of your completed Bingo boards looks like that I could model my own after?

  10. I am just venturing into the world of "guided math" and your ideas are certainly going to make it easier to set up my classroom. Thank you for sharing your ideas and games!

  11. AH! I am so excited about teaching math this way this year! I slowly implemented teaching math in small groups last year, but will be doing it full force this year! I am in the middle of training right now! I am struggling with how to keep the kiddos accountable for their center work. What if it's a game? What if it's the math boggle? Any help/ideas would be awesome!! :)))

  12. Can you elaborate on your storage unit from JoAnns? Do you leave the supplies in each drawer and they get them out as needed or do you pull out the materials they will need for each activity? I don't see labels on the drawers so I'm just wondering how they know where to get the materials. Thanks!