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Math time has always been a big time struggle for me. I love the math series that I am using – it is so thorough and well put together and comprehensive…lacks absolutely nothing. The structure is great, too —> a mini lesson and group activity, partner practice, and then an independent activity. But my biggest problem is that my class is too huge. I have 25 kiddos. That’s a lot of 5 year olds to try to reign in for 15 minutes at a time. I would have a handful of kiddos really listening and paying attention, but then I would have 2 kids staring out the window, a few others fascinated with the lint on the carpet, others talking, and….well, it stressed me out more than it got me excited about doing math.

Another problem that I was having was that I was running out of time for math centers. Sad face. I love math centers! But with trying to reign in the kids for math lessons, then explaining the activity, and then explain the independent practice sheet — I just didn’t have time for centers. So last week I sat out to solve this problem. If you have been teaching K-2 for any amount of time, then you know the only true way to effectively teach is to do it in small groups. So, that’s perfect, right?! I have 5 groups of 5 students. Group 1 comes to me, Group 2 and 3 play in math tubs, Group 4 goes to my assistant for math journal, and Group 5 plays math games on the iPad.

Insert new problem. How do my kids know where to go {without me having to create yet another pocket chart rotation system and print a million more labels to go in it}?? How do they know what to play? And how do I rotate it? These are all problems I was determined to solve through any means necessary!! Trial and error is very common in my classroom.

At each table, I have 5 students. Having 5 students work together on any type of long term task is a huge mistake, IMHO. So, I break down each table into one group of 2 and one group of 3. A group of 2 is ideal, but when I have 25 kids, it’s just easier to break them down into groups at each table, hence the group of 2 and group of 3. I have 4 tubs that I printed new labels for: 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B. These have nothing to do with the table numbers, they are just the very {un}clever names that I came up with for these tubs. At each table, I assigned each group of 2 to be “A” and each group of 3 to be “B”. Group A will never pull an activity from tub B and group B will never pull an activity out of tub A. They will, however, get to do every activity eventually because I will rotate the cards around. I just do it this way so that I don’t have 2 activities in one tub and then have to explain which group of 2 or 3 plays with what activity. I hope that makes sense.

So, on my whiteboard at the front of the room, I have this little chart. I just used magnets on the back for it to stick. It is super simple. I just move the table number cards down when it’s time to rotate. All move down except the very bottom card –> that one just moves up to the top.


Each rotation lasts for about 12 minutes for a total of 60 minutes, which is about the same time that it took for me to do math in whole group. Except now I can also sneak in some center time. It’s working pretty well, though we have a little ways to go when it comes to clean up and quick transition. But, those things are a work in progress constantly until about the 5th month of school. {Sigh.} I really do like this so much better because I can make sure every child is getting it — and getting what they need. I did not group these kiddos homogeneously, but it’s something I am going to consider if I need to do that eventually. Right now, our lessons are pretty basic, so everyone seems to be getting it. If I need to make adjustments, it’s an easy thing to do.

So, what are my kids doing in math centers? I use many, many different types of games that have the same structure {and that way I don’t have to keep teaching games over and over again throughout the year}. This week, we are playing Bump, Compare, making numbers with Play Doh, and 4 in a Row. Later this month, I will write a new post dedicated to the types of games and activities that we play. I didn’t want this to quickly become the longest post in the history of the world. 🙂

I love to hear about how other teachers handle math time. How do you handle your math block?

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