At the beginning of the year, it’s so important to set up procedures and expectations for everything, but ESPECIALLY when it comes to your math centers. That’s why I let my students spend time exploring math manipulatives! In order to have successful math rotations, students must know how to complete math centers independently.
How to Explore Math Manipulatives
One of my favorite ways for students to build independence for math centers is through exploring math manipulatives. I want my students to think, explore, and learn how to utilize various manipulatives to help them as mathematicians.
For 14 different math manipulatives, I’ve created exploration centers for students to use. The best part? There’s no right or wrong way for students to use these manipulatives!
Just like when you build silent reading stamina, students need explicit practice with math centers and manipulatives. That’s why taking the time to let students explore, create, and practice using them will help them tremendously!
Practice Makes Perfect, Right?
While there’s never a “perfect” way to introduce math centers, these exploration centers are great to use when you want to start meeting with your small groups at teacher table. You can have students work on these math centers independently because there’s no wrong way to complete them, which means you won’t be interrupted at teacher table! Win-win!
With these exploring manipulatives activities, you can also provide blank pattern mats, fact family houses, and addition mats for students to use!
The Rationale for Exploring Math Manipulatives
First, these exploration math centers will teach students how all of these manipulatives can be used for math. Second, this is the perfect way for students to learn the routine of math centers. This is the time they get to practice how to work in math centers while the teacher is working with a small group.
While students are exploring with their math manipulatives, this is a great time to pull students for a quick one-on-one assessment! I love using these math snapshots to get to know my new little mathematicians!
We want our students to be independent during this time, so it’s vital that you take the time during your mini-lessons to go over what you expect during math centers. Create a list of expectations & routines with your students.
Here’s a list of expectations I’ve used:
- Get started right away.
- Work quietly.
- Stay focused on your task.
- Choose a smart spot.
When Do I Switch To Skill-Based Centers?
You’re probably wondering when you can finally trade out exploration math centers with skill-based games and puzzles. Before you switch out math centers, make sure your students know how to do them. I like to pull out games and puzzles that I’ve already played with my students in small groups. These back to school math puzzles shown in the picture are perfect at the beginning of the year! These are never brand new content!
Just remember, the more time you spend practicing expectations and routines, the better off your rotations will go! Don’t rush! Setting up these procedures will pay off in the end!
If you need tips & ideas for getting started with your literacy stations, you can read all about that over here!