During guided math, my students went to 3 math rotations a day. Teacher table, independent work, and math centers. I love, love, LOVE using math centers in the classroom! I loved meeting with my small groups at teacher table and teaching each small group at an appropriate level. Then, students would leave teacher table and complete differentiated independent work.
There was just one problem staring me right in the face. My third rotation: Math centers. Differentiating math centers was not happening in my classroom. (PS – I’m giving away a free math center at the end of this post)
Differentiating Math Centers
I never wanted my students to know that some groups had “harder” or “easier” work than another group. So here’s what I came up with: I created math centers that came in TWO levels.
For example, if I used a place value center, I would have some students complete a two-digit version, while others would complete a three-digit version. If we’re telling time, some students will tell time to the quarter hour, while others will tell time to the nearest five minutes.
The best part: the differentiation is inconspicuous! The centers are almost identical! Just like in this Halloween themed set of differentiated centers below, you can see how they come in two levels!
You can find tons of differentiated centers for 1st & 2nd grade here!
Organizing Math Centers
When you use differentiated centers in your classroom, it’s important that you come up with a plan for how you’ll organize these centers. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
If you’ve read my post on differentiating independent work, you know that I have three math groups. Each of my math groups has their own colored folder. I love color coding! You can easily color code your math centers by labeling them with colored dot stickers and colored folders.
I usually had my two of my three groups (usually the on-level and above -level groups) completing the SAME center. Then, my third group (usually the lowest level), would complete a lower level center.
This will be different for each classroom and unique group of students. Test out different bins, labels, etc. and see what works best. I’ll be honest, at one point my groups CHOSE which level to complete. And you know what, IT ACTUALLY WORKED! I said to them, “If you think you’re ready to complete the 3-digit addition center, choose that one! If you think you’d still like more practice with 2-digit addition, choose that one!” I was AMAZED at how well they did with that.
Okay, so you made it this far… How about I give you a FREE differentiated math center that you can try out with your students? Just leave your email below!
P.S. I know that strategy does not work every year or with every group of students, so you’ll need to decide what works with your students.