Math Work Stations
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
At first glance, you might just think these are math centers. Yes, in a way they are, but no they really are not. Math work stations allow students to engage in authentic and meaningful hands-on learning. They often last for several weeks, giving students time to reinforce or extend their prior instruction, whereas math centers usually focus on a new skill or concept each week.
I have 12 stations going at a time with two students per station. Most of my stations are thematic. I change them as the seasons, holidays, or curricula change. In October most of my stations had pumpkin and Halloween themes. The skills at each station reflect the current standards we are focusing on. I usually have at least two stations that focus on the same standards and skills. Before students have an opportunity to use the materials in a station, I introduce them to the whole class, several times. Once they have an understanding of the concept, the materials are then added to the work stations.
Types of Centers
At the beginning of the year my stations are very basic, most of them focusing on number sense and patterning. As the year progresses, so will the skills required at each station. I am currently creating new stations and aligning all of my older stations to the common core standards. Although patterning is not a common core standard for kindergarten, it is still a concept I include in my stations. Below are a few examples of the stations we are currently using.
Students take a pattern starter card and continue the pattern. As the school year progresses, so does the difficulty of the patterns. In the fall we begin making AB patterns with apples or leaves and gradually move into more complex patterns.
This is a common core standard in kindergarten, and recently I have spent a considerable amount of time teaching tally marks. This year, the kids think they are so much fun to make and count. To give my students more practice recognizing and counting tally marks, I created some puzzles.
Roll and Cover or Roll and Color
These games are great for counting, number recognition, and addition. To play, kids roll a die and either cover up the corresponding number or cover that many objects on their game board. For the addition games, students roll two dice, add the numbers together, and cover the corresponding number.
Understanding the idea of only saying one number for one item can be quite confusing to a 5-year-old. To help my students with this skill I almost always have a counting work station. Sometimes the activity will involve students matching the correct number of objects to a number card. Other times they will be using count and clip cards. With these cards, students count the items on the card and clip the correct number with a clothespin. To make the cards self-checking, I place a sticker on the back side of the card where the clothespin would be clipped.
We do a lot of work with ten frames. In this particular station, students are counting the objects in the ten frames and placing the correct number in the box.
In kindergarten, students need to know how to write their numbers 0 to 20. This work station allows practice with some fun twists. Rainbow writing the numbers is always a success, especially if I let them use markers. I also like to use dry erase boards for number practice and dry erase envelopes. The dry erase envelopes are eco-friendly. I can insert a copy of a writing practice page without having to make class sets. A clear page protector can be used the same way.
With these stations students are given a number board with some of the numbers missing. They must fill in the missing numbers with the number cards.
Station Organization and Management
I have 12 containers labeled 1 to 12. The numbers correspond to the numbers on my rotation chart. I pair students who can work well together, who have similar skills, and who need more practice on the same concepts or skills. Each day during math work stations, students use the center chart to see which box they will be using and who their partner will be. Everything they need for their station will be in their box. Each station is differentiated. If students need more practice and experience working on numbers 0 to 10, those will be the only numbers in their box. If they are ready to move on into the teens, then I will place higher number activities into the box for them to work with.
In the beginning there is a lot of prepping involved in gathering, creating, and organizing the work stations. However, once all of the initial work is complete, the stations are easy to manage. Many of my stations stay in our rotation for three or four weeks to give students ample opportunity to master the skills and concepts. There are many wonderful resources available to get you started. I recommend you read Math Work Stations by Debbie Diller. In her book, she leads you step-by-step through the process of implementing work stations. Another great resource is the website K–5 Math Teaching Resources. This site has a plethora of ideas and resources to get you started.
Do you use work stations in your classroom? I'd like to hear how you use them and hope you will share some station ideas with our readers.