How to Set Up Your Math Center

Jun 5, 2018 by

There is so much focus placed on building a child’s reading and writing skills early on that sometimes, math is an afterthought. But helping students learn basic math concepts and develop their problem solving skills are also important for their educational success. Designing a practical and functional math center in your preschool or elementary classroom is the first step to ensuring a student’s success in the classroom.

Stock It Properly

One of the most important elements of any math center are the materials made available to the children. These are known as manipulatives and are a great resource at this young age when children are learning math concepts through hands-on play. Here are some of the most basic materials every math center should have when first introducing math concepts to young learners.

Teddy Bear Counters – A classic manipulative used to help students count, create patterns, and sort. The colorful bears are also great for teaching little ones hand-eye-coordination and help develop their fine motor skills. You can teach grouping, patterns, counting, addition, and subtraction.

Mathlink Cubes – Another great resource for addition, subtraction, patterns, and visual aides, mathlink cubes allow children to explore counting by 10’s, counting to 100, and creating complex patterns. They can also experiment with more complex patterns when connecting the cubes on multiple sides.

Scale – This tool can really be used in both the math and science centers and is an easy way to explore the concept of weight and measurement. Children love experimenting with weighing different objects and guessing which ones will weigh more. Children can expand on this idea by adding or subtracting certain items from each side of the scale to create balance. This is where children are introduced to volume, weight, and the difference between solids and liquids.

Rubber Band Board – These small pegboards are the perfect way to help introduce geometric shapes to students. These are also known as GEOboards. These boards come with rubber bands of various sizes and colors, allowing children to create some pretty amazing shapes. They can explore the difference in size and circumference.

Abacus – Another classic counting tool, students love the colorful, sliding beads that allow them to count and group numbers. Not only that, but an abacus helps teach problem solving skills, increases endurance for stress and pressure, and sharpens concentration. An abacus is a versatile tool for any math center.

Puzzles – Believe it or not but shape puzzles are another great math tool. Most shape puzzles offer flat pieces of varying geometric shape and size. Children use these shapes to recreate pictures depicted on cards. This is an excellent problem solving exercise and teaches children to follow step-by-step directions.

How to Display Materials

Useful materials are what makes up a quality math center but the way that the materials are displayed are equally as important. Students need easy access to all the materials, which means they should be housed on low shelving that is within a child’s reach. Labels are an important part of the display process as well. Label each container with a photograph of what is found inside and the name of each item in bold, easy to read text. Try using clear containers. This allows students to see which materials are in each container and choose accordingly. This really helps with the cleanup process as well. Students can easily place items back where they found them and in the correct containers. Take it one step further and label the shelves with corresponding photos. This helps prevent materials being placed in the wrong spot. Children should be able to find what they’re looking for in the same location each day. This helps with consistency and routine.

Rotate Math Materials

Children can become easily overwhelmed and overstimulated. The best way to avoid this is to provide them with a small number of materials at first – between 3 and 5 is ideal. These materials should coincide with and enhance whatever mathematical concepts you’re currently discussing in the classroom. Let the children explore these materials for a few weeks. Once they’ve mastered these concepts or become bored with these materials, rotate them with new and different ones. This helps keep children engaged and interested in math. Students love discovering new materials that they’ve never seen before. Try having several math materials on hand and rotate them according to the lesson.

Make Math Fun

Children learn best through play. Try creating fun games and activities that teach children math concepts without them even realizing it! Math can be reinforced in a variety of ways in the classroom but the first place to start is in your math center. And these tips should offer you the perfect foundation for a math center that is both fun and beneficial to students.

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