- Explore some of my favorite LOW-PREP centers and activities
- Share how recording pages hold students accountable for their learning, and help you monitor their understanding
- Describe how to easily differentiate each center
- How introducing choice can both engage your students and decrease your planning time
- Share a quick and easy assessment to use at every level in your classroom
Okay, so I may have a slight obsession with dice. About six years ago, our math specialist came into my classroom with a plastic container. It had previously been used to sort magnetic letters, but she had transformed it into a math dream! I knew I needed one for myself!
I like using recording sheets at centers. I find they are a great way to hold students accountable for their work while I am working with small groups. Also, checking them after the math block helps me monitor their understanding!
You can grab these Number Train Recording Pages [HERE]
Having two different color cubes available is crucial for this activity. It helps students identify the two separate parts needed to make the whole. I keep my cubes in bins already sorted with two colors in each bin. It makes it much easier for students to collect their materials, and provides an embedded reminder to use two colors.
*TEACHER TIP: Sorting cubes into your city’s team colors gets my students motivated. Red and Blue for the Patriots or Red Sox, Green and White for the Celtics, and Black and Yellow for the Bruins. I can’t tell you how much this little detail has helped engage my kiddos!
SPILL THE BEANS
Spill the Beans is a fun activity that is VERY low prep! All you need is a cup and some of these little white and red bean manipulatives. If students are working with the number 7, they should have 7 beans in their cup. For each round, the student needs to “spill the beans” from their cup and identify how many landed on the white side and how many landed on the red side. Students then write their math sentence on the recording page.
You can grab these Spill The Beans Recording Pages [HERE]
SPILL A SENTENCE
Spill a Sentence is essentially the same as Spill The Beans. I just like having multiple activities for students to choose from. Some students like the beans, others like the counters. It’s nice to have both available to them at all times.
You can grab these Spill A Sentence Recording Pages [HERE]
CLIP A SENTENCE
This center was inspired by all of the little clothes pins I find on the floor of my classroom. We use clothespins for everything from segmenting sounds to making tissue paper butterflies. Why not use them in a math center too?
Students grab the bin with their working number (the number cards, clothes pins and recording sheets are all together). I use this center to help students both compose and decompose numbers:
ADDITION: Have students roll a dice or use a spinner to determine how many clips they should put on their number card (If the students are working with “5”, they should use a dice or spinner with numbers 0-5.) If the student rolls a 2, they place 2 clips on their card. There are 3 dots remaining. The student records the sentence 2 + 3 = 5 on their paper.
You can grab these recording pages and number cards [HERE]
GO FISH TO [WORKING NUMBER]
Go Fish is a well known game. Just throw in some Ten Frame cards and you have yourself a center! Let’s say a group of students are working on composing and decomposing numbers to 6. Those students will only be playing with cards 0-6. How do you play?
• Pass out 5 cards to each student (3-5 is ideal), and place the rest in a pile at the center
• Student 1 has a 2 in their hand, so they must identify 4 as the missing part to make 6. Student 1 asks one of their peers, “Do you have a 4?”
• If student 2 does have a 4, they must give their card to Student 1. Student 1 then takes the 2 and the 4, and places them face up on the table. This counts as 1 point, and Student 1 may go again.
• If student 2 does not have a 4, they say, “Go Fish!” Student 1 must draw one card from the center pile. If this new card matches a card in their hand to make 6, they may place them face down but not until their next turn.
• The first student to use all their cards stops the game. The student with the most pairs at this point in the game wins.
BUILD A FLOOR
Build a floor is one of my favorite activities from Kathy Richardson’s Developing Number Concepts! It’s so low-prep, but really helps students think about how to compose numbers. Also, this activity can be an independent center, or students can work in partners or small groups to compete to Build a Floor the quickest. Let’s take a closer look.
The student playing this game is working to build a floor to 5. They have their die marked with numbers 0-5. The student rolls a 2. They must place 2 blue cubes in the first column (see below).
The student continues to roll, each time creating a tower of cubes and placing them on the board. In the example below, the student rolled a “0” on their second turn, so they placed no cubes in that column.
Next, the student moves onto their red cubes. They must use these red cubes to complete a tower to 5. To do so, they roll the die. If the student rolls a 2, they have to check to see if they can use 2 red cubes in combination with one of the existing blue towers to make 5. In the example below, the student was able to use the 2 red cubes in the fifth column to make 5.
If the student is unable to make 5, they lose their turn. If they are working independently, they simply roll again.
A student wins this game by completing ALL of their columns and building a complete floor of 5. If the student is playing independently, they are simply finished with the activity and can choose to play again or move on to another. I like to have student record their number sentences either in the recording pages of Kathy Richardson’s book Developing Number Concepts, or in their math journals.
Number shapes are arrangements of squares to represent numbers. The are used to help students recognize larger numbers because these shapes naturally support subitizing. Take the numbers 5 and 7 for example:
HANGING OUT WITH CLOTHES PINS
When I hear wire hangers, my mind usually jumps right to Mommy Dearest. “NO WIRE HANGERS EVER!” Well, I have news for you Joan Crawford- Wire hangers are a great tool for teaching composing and decomposing numbers!
I love a center that can develop math and fine motor skills at the same time! It also gives me something to do with all of the wire hangers we get from the dry cleaner! This center is quick to set up (all you need are hangers and clothes pins) and you’re good to go. My students like to write their number sentences on strips of paper and take pictures to document their work. When that’s not an option, I have them record their equations in their math journals.