Guided Math ~ Chapter 8: What Are the Other Kids Doing?

"Math centers allow students to concretize their knowledge and intensively practice their math skills (pg 99)." As Dr. Newton goes on to explain, "The goal is for all students to be doing work that improves their skills and allows them to practice and self-check their work (pg 100)."

In this chapter, you will find the nuts and bolts about math centers.

Variety is the spice of life here! Students should have opportunities to work independently, with partners, and in groups. Depending on the target, students can be heterogeneously or homogeneously grouped.

Regardless of the type of grouping used, it is important to focus on the students' zone of proximal development. Not too easy; not too tough. It's important to target activities that are "just right" to meet students where they are so you can take them where they need to go (pg 9).

Individual Work:
During individual work, students can sit together as a group in a designated location while working independently. Dr. Newton references this as parallel work.

Partner Work or Group Work:
Games. Tasks. Problem Solving. Let the learning begin!! During partner or group work, the focus can be collaborative or competitive. For some students, they enjoy the competition; for others not so much. It is important to mix it up. I really like the suggestion to have students play games in rounds of five turns. This eliminates the focus on winning a game and refocuses the goal to the task at hand (100). Regardless of the task, the focus needs to be on gaining and reinforcing content and skill knowledge.

Math Center Logistics

Using Standards-Based Task Cards:
It is important that tasks are connected to standards. Math centers are not about "fluff and stuff."

Using Scaffolded Activity Sheets:
Scaffolded activity sheets can help students know what to do. It is important that students are able to work without teacher assistance during math center time. Spending a little extra time up front providing visual cues and scaffolding sheets to meet the needs of learners can SAVE time in the long run and MAXIMIZE learning.

Using Leveled Centers:
Dr. Newton highlighted the following as must-have centers: Basic Facts Center, Hot Topics Review Center, Geometry Center, Word Problem Center, Math Poem Center, Math Journal Center, and Math Vocabulary Center.

I really like to use poems in math. You can read the poem "Smart" by Shel Silverstein here. Great to add to a poem center during a unit on money.

It is suggested to keep centers current based on students needs. The belief is that centers are about practicing for proficiency (pg 108). It is important to differentiate the centers by student readiness levels. Think BIG IDEAS!

Student Accountability:
Feedback and reflection are important. Having conversations with students, reflecting in math journals, or using exit tickets are ways to hold students accountable and monitor student engagement and progress.

Whoa, that is a lot to think about and consider when setting up math centers. Ultimately, I have learned that I have to do what is right for my students and what I know will work with the structure of time I have.

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