Setting Up Math Centers That Work


Math centers were daunting and stressful for me as a new teacher. It would take me hours to shift students around trying to make it where every student went to every station. I often stopped mid plan and was unprepared for the week ahead. Continue reading to learn how fluid groups, abundant and standard based resources and consistency will help you when setting up math centers in the future.

math center freebie

Fluid groups are best

Don’t assign kids based on their overall levels or assign them a color group. I suggest planning based on the standard you need to remediate. Focus on 1 or 2 days at a time. 

Planning math centers a week or month at a time wastes time in the long run. Let’s say you miss a day, or a few students are out then your plan for the rest of the week becomes outdated and irrelevant. I think planning for just a few days at a time allows you to stay current with the needs of your students. If a few students fail a quiz, you can remediate it within a few days instead of several weeks later when students don’t even remember taking it. 

setting up math centers template

A PowerPoint graphic organizer or even a handwritten chart makes it easy to switch students for the following day. Before leaving school, I would make the next day’s plan. If I needed to meet with my small group another day it was no big deal. I wasn’t forced to ignore the needs of my students to stay with the lesson plan. If a student struggled focusing with their partner, I could switch up their placement for the next day and not stress about it messing up the rotation. 

I preferred keeping a binder with blank copies of my daily plan. I made notes on it during my small group and often started on the following day’s plan while my small group worked on their exit ticket. Teacher life means always multitasking. 

completed math center plan

Abundant standards-based resources

To make your life easier, start collecting tons of standards based resources. I liked having 5 to 10 activities per standard so I didn’t feel limited. I got multiple bins from Walmart and filled them with hanging folders. 1 folder per standard.

Over the summer I laminated and prepped a ton of centers to start the year off but I continued to add to it as I found new resources I liked. I didn’t worry about laminating or cutting out at this point, I just made copies and filed them under the correct standard. 

As I planned the following day’s centers, I was able to find the bin, standard, and locate a standards-based activity to use for the following day without needing to print or make copies of anything.

Being prepared with these resources before I actually needed them made planning one to two days at a time possible. 

If you are a third grade teacher and need more standard based centers then check out my Math Centers Game Bundle that includes 2 activities per standard to start building your collection. 

You can download 2 free rounding centers here.

small group template

Consistency is better than perfection

I prefer a small group of struggling students over whole group instruction but the act of transitioning to centers can be daunting. 

Let’s say your lesson went long and instead of the 30 minutes you planned for centers you now only have 15. It can be easy to think, “oh, well! Let’s skip centers today.” 

But 15 minutes is better than nothing and since you are following a plan that is flexible day to day you don’t have to worry about getting off schedule with your plan for the week. 

Didn’t finish centers in the 15 minutes, awesome! Erase the date and you have centers already completed for tomorrow. Better yet, students will already know which group they are in and picking it back up will be easier.

Where can I download the free Math Centers Lesson Plan Template?

This math center template is available for FREE in my TeachersPayTeachers store. Click on the link below and you will go straight to my store to download the resource.

Math Centers Lesson Plan Template

You May Also Like

Free Rounding Math Center Games – Teaching at the Oaks

How to Organize Your Teacher Led Math Center – Teaching at the Oaks

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *