Monday, September 16, 2013

Introducing Math Centers

One of the things that I am big on in teaching math is math centers. My team and I work hard to create some exciting centers for the students. I want them to be practicing the skills that we are teaching, but to do so in such a way that they don't realize they are learning. If the rest of the year continues the way our first day went, I think I might be successful at that.

The first centers I introduced were place value oriented. We have been focusing on the skills of writing numbers (in standard, word, and expanded form), comparing numbers, and rounding numbers. With that in mind, I created a number of centers to help reinforce those skills.

The first center I introduced to the students was something I call "Catch The Fly!" This activity allows the students to compare numbers using the symbols for greater than, less than, or equal to, but does it in a way that encourages a bit of fun. Instead of using the regular (boring) symbols, the center gives students special frog symbols to use. Each of the numbers being compared has a fly over it, so the frog is trying to eat the bigger of the two flies. The students were very excited about this one and were meticulously cutting out their frogs.  The only thing that I would change about this center is the fact that the frogs they are using are black and white.  The actual file has them in color, but that is a lot of color ink to use when making enough sheets for the whole class to use.

Another center that I rolled out for my students today made them feel really grown-up.  This center is called "Check Writing."  The students get to use the skills of writing numbers in standard form and written form to fill out a check for an amount that is listed on the task card they have chosen.  They were so excited to be writing "real" checks, especially when the task card told them to write a check to their teacher.  I did have to correct one student who wrote "My Mom" when the task card instructed her to write a check to her mother.  It did make me laugh.  This center has the students writing four separate checks and the hardest part for them so far was knowing what the date was.  We had to stop and have a mini-lesson on how to use this great new invention known as the calendar.  I just wish the checks they were writing to me were real.

One last center that I want to share with you is the one the students were most excited about.  This center, called "Pirates vs. Ninjas!" has the students comparing numbers, but they are doing it through an exciting card game.  Each student is given a deck of cards and an activity sheet.  With a partner, the student will flip over his card while his partner does the same.  They compare numbers, write down both numbers, and then determine who the winner is.  After 10 rounds, the player with the most wins is the champion.  My students loved this activity because there was a competition aspect to it.  All of the students wanted to play, but as I only made two sets of the cards, this one was in high demand during both math groups.

Each week, I try to have at least nine centers for the the students to choose from.  All of the choices are self-selected, but the students have to complete a certain number of centers before the end of the week.  This is often their favorite part of math time.  I really enjoy seeing them get so excited about applying their learning (even if they don't always realize they are doing it.)

If you are interested in learning more about the centers I shared above, or would like to purchase copies of your own, Catch the Fly!, Pirates vs. Ninjas, and Check Writing are all available for purchase at my TeachersPayTeachers store.  If you make use of them, I would love for you to share how your students responded to the activities.

What centers do your students love the most?

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