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Math Centers

I've had a number of people inquire on Instagram about how I run my math centers and structure my math program, so I thought I would get back to blogging with a more in-depth look at how I teach math! 

Let me start by saying, it took me a few years in kindergarten before I came up with a system that I was completely happy with. It is not easy when you're starting out in full-day kindergarten - I found at first that I really struggled with how to run a math program that served both myself and my students well. There is a lot of trial and error involved, and a lot of experimentation to find the right balance of instruction and play-based learning. My actual math schedule looks like this:

I have 4 math centers a week. I run it this way because typically the over last few years, I have had a significant amount of prep periods on Monday and I'm not able to fit in a full math block. So on Mondays I would do a short mini-lesson around our math focus - usually I would try to gauge what my students knew about the strand and see where the gaps were so I that I knew how to direct my mini-lessons for the rest of the week. 

The rest of the week (Tuesday to Friday) I begin with a short whole class mini-lesson. If we were learning about 2D shapes, I may ask a few students to retrieve some 2D shapes that they could find in the room, or ask the students to name every day items that were in the shape of a circle for example. I often incorporate read alouds into these whole class lessons, as well as quickly review any posters or charts we may have up in the room. 

Now onto the centers! I have my students divided into four groups, and each day one group will visit one center. This way, I know that all students have visited all of the centers, and it is so much easier for me to document and assess as they are learning. The center block itself is not terribly long - about twenty minutes is the maximum amount of time I will keep the centers going. I have found that letting them go on for too long creates a situation where behaviours or boredom might begin to arise. I keep it short so that engagement is maximized and interest is high. I choose to usually have two of the centers be really play-based and hands on, and two are a little more pencil and paper based or skill-focused. Here are some examples of a week's worth of play based math centers focusing on 2D shapes:

In this week we made pictures using cut out shapes, worked with bingo daubbers, sorted shapes by the number of sides, and had some fun bowling! If there is a center that the groups really love, I may put that one back out as a morning center the following week, so that everyone can get more time there if they wish. I really enjoy doing it this way, I find it organized and structured while still being fun and engaging. I am able to collect work samples and pieces for assessment or document with photos, and I am not running around trying to check off whether or not students have visited a particular center - and I know they have all had a chance to explore and practice each concept. 

Here is another week's worth of centers for our exploration of 2D shapes:

There is lots of opportunities to build shapes, discuss shapes, classify shapes, as well as draw shapes. 

In terms of organization, my room currently has tables in which I am usually able to store materials inside (underneath the tabletop). Realizing this has been a game changer for me! I used to use a giant tub and have each group's items labeled (always trying to keep it accessible in case an occasional teacher needed to step in), but this always somehow managed to be in the way or get messed up in some way. This way I simply slide the materials inside each group's table at the end of the math center session and its all ready to go for the next day. It also makes it incredibly easy to put the materials back, as I just slide the bins back onto our math manipulative shelf, or papers back into their binders. 

I definitely feel far more organized and confident in my math program since I found a structure that works for me - and it has really worked with my students. What works for me may not work for you, but in terms of being able to document, assess and plan - this system has made a world of difference for me! I've also found it's allowed me to be more creative, because I know the kids will be engaged.

It's also important to note that keeping my manipulatives easy-to-find and organized has also really helped me. Every teacher needs to do what works for them, but if this helps you, then I'm happy to share! The bins you see below have really been instrumental in making me feel more organized - originally I went with baskets as I had been shown in workshops and PD guides. But they got broken over time by little, eager hands - and manipulatives got lost, or I simply couldn't see them and would forget what I had! These little dollar store bins that you see below were a great investment for me! 

And that's my math program in a nutshell! It took some trial and error, but it works really well for me now. As far as more open-ended math centers, I do that as well, but usually in the morning during our long play-based learning block. Those are set out as an open invitation for students to create and explore mathematical concepts through open-ended play. The centers shown here are as I said, a short and focused block to practice and assess specific skills.
If you are interested in any of the resources from these pictures, you can find them here 2D Shapes Mega Pack and here Kindergarten Addition Centers

Thank you for stopping by my blog, it's nice to be back! 


  1. Love this, thank you for the great ideas on how to run math centres. I am new to kinder, this will be my third year and still finding my groove. Thanks for the tips😊


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