Using centers can help all of your students be successful.

students in a classroom on computers

At any one time, we, as educators, have many demands placed on our plates. Some we solve easily, and some we just can’t fix. We torture ourselves each day trying to make something work that isn’t working. Math can be a challenge to teach to a whole group. You can never meet the needs of all with one lesson. Here’s a solution to your math struggles: math centers.

Now wait, before you stop reading -- consider the benefits of using math centers:

  • All your students are engaged.
  • All your students feel success.
  • All your students are working at their skill level.

The steps to starting math centers are simple, but they require thoughtful planning.

  1. Assessment: Assess your students on their math skills. Then you can group students who have similar skills.
  2. Groups: How many groups do you need? The number of groups will determine how many activities you need to plan for students to work on while you're meeting with a group.
  3. Time: How much time will you have with each group?
  4. Activities: What will your students work on while you're working with a group? Math games are interactive and fun. If you're looking for math games for your students to play, check out Math Coach's Corner.

Common Sense Education has a large collection of reviewed apps for math. Check out some of my students' favorites:

  • Sumdog -- Sumdog is a highly engaging math-skills website. My students work on the math skills they need, and they love it. The website allows you to customize the skill set each student is working on.
  • Front Row -- One of my favorite websites. Front Row differentiates instruction based each student’s work. It's also available in app form. I love the weekly summaries I get on my students' progress.
  • Matific -- My students love this website. It's also available in app form.
  • XtraMath -- Great free website that works on math fact fluency. It also differentiates the instruction each student receives.
  • Math Playground -- This website offers skill-specific activities.
  • Math Chimp -- Math concepts on this website are organized by Common Core Math Standards.
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    Mystery Math Town -- Students can practice math facts knowledge combined with some strategy.
  • Mystery Math Museum -- This is the sequel to Mystery Math Town.
  • Marble Math Junior (K-3) -- Students practice math skills while navigating a marble maze.
  • Marble Math (3-6) -- This is the version for the older students.
  • Pet Bingo -- Students practice math facts while they raise and take care of their pet.
  • Teachley: Addimal Adventure -- Students learn strategies for solving addition problems quickly. The modeling in this app is some of the best I've seen, and my students love to play it. They also have an app for multiplication, Teachley: Mt. Multiplis.
  • Numbers League --  This is a highly engaging math app for students.
Lesson Plans

If you're looking for specific math lessons for your math centers, search Common Sense Education's Lesson Plans for beginning-to-end lessons for your grade level. They combine easy-to-integrate technology with math content.

Last pieces of advice: Start small and change one thing at a time so you're not overwhelmed. Introduce your students to one of the websites above, or download a new app to your iPads. Keep on adding a piece at a time until you're comfortable. I promise you, though, in the end, math centers will make you a happier teacher, and your students will love math.

Photo "Using iPad" by Kathy Cassidy. Used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Jennifer K.

I have been teaching for twenty-one grades K through 3. Currently I am a Math and Science Coach for Newark City Schools. I strive for differentiating my classroom instruction by using technology as a way to drive my instruction. For the last fourteen years I have served as my building's technology integration specialist. I have been awarded two NEA Grants for the purpose of using iPads to boost student achievement. In addition to my efforts in technology integration I also serve on my building's Leadership Team and manage the school's data for the RTI process