Student-Centered Math: Teaching Numbers “Hands-On”

student centered math

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Hey, Y’all! My name is Kelcee Calloura. I teach 4th grade Math and Science. I have previously been a reading teacher for the past six years (currently in year 7). I teach in a small town in Texas and love my little community. Thank you so much for allowing me to share what I love to do…teach. I want to talk to you about student-centered math stations in the classroom and especially focus on how to make this possible when you have a short window of teaching time. Believe it or not, it is possible to implement it into your daily routine.

There is a lot of thought about whether or not you can really create an environment conducive to student-centered math when you have such a short period of time each day. The fear is always that you will spend too much time trying to get the students organized and not enough learning will take place in order to fulfill the requirements of the curriculum. This simply is not the case. Here is a look at what I do in my classroom room Monday-Thursday; our Friday is enrichment or intervention day.

A Schedule for Student-Centered Math

Before stations can be established, students are placed in one of three groups; high, middles, or lowers (they do not which group is which only the teacher should know). This year I am fortunate to have a small number of students so I only have three groups per class. But, in years past I have had at least 30 plus students and these rotations still work. It is simply a matter of planning out what you have and making sure your students are where they will have the most success. It is also important to follow along with their data and move them around to different groups with different students when it is deemed necessary to keep the students challenged, but also make sure that they are learning the best. This is what truly makes it student-centered math. While there is some debate about grouping, as discussed in this article from Engaging Maths, keeping up with your student’s achievement and resetting them as necessary make sure that they are consistently challenged and improving.

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I use MATH KATS to name our stations and to tell the students what they are working on for each station. This is just a fun spin I put on our school mascot, the “Bearkats”, and my kiddos enjoy knowing that when it is MATH KATS time, that we will be moving around our rotations. This was an easy way to get them excited to buy-in to student-centered math.

In my currently classroom setup, I teach two groups of students for 50 minutes each class period. This has been the easiest way to see all of my kids every day. Depending on what activity they are doing I can see how they are performing when I am not in front of them. I try to make it so each station follows the following criteria so there is a mixture of elements that benefit each student’s individual learning strengths (and also allows them to work on their areas of weaknesses). These include:

  1. Kinesthetic- Hands-on, manipulative, game, task cards
  2. Application- Focus TEK or Topic for the day, independent work
  3. Technology-  Computer game, interactive Smartboard, Quizizz, (a Student-Centered World favorite!), Boom Cards, Quizlet, Google Classroom,, Math Antics (only $20.00 for a whole year subscription)
  4. Small Group- Meet with Teacher (I usually use curriculum lessons (Envision) with the help of DOK leveled questions)

I take about 3-5 minutes in the morning before stations start to explain to my students what each station is about and what to do with it. This way, if there are any questions ahead of time or clarifications that are needed, they can be asked so the entire class has the same clarification. This adds an element of student-centered math instruction because it lessens the chance of a student who is off on their own not completing a task as assigned because they do not understand the directions. It also limits interruptions to small group instruction. In theory, if just a small handful of students don’t fully understand the directions, other students can help them (adding even more to the concept of the student-centered math model). Whereas if they were off on their own to understand the directions, the scale might tip in the other direction instead, making the station activity ineffective. To help even further, each group has the same directions I have given before stations started in writing in case a student is unsure or doesn’t quite remember what was discussed. It takes a bit of planning beforehand, but it helps to make sure the day’s activities go smoothly once they are executed.

My students rotate through each station every 10-15 minutes depending on who needs more or less time. I do not spend as much time with my high students as I do with my middles or lowers, but with these stations, you see your high students every day, so you can add enrichment to your lessons for those students. Again, it is imperative to be following along with the data that each student is individually giving to make sure that they are grouped appropriately and that each is receiving the most beneficial time that they need to truly grasp the material they are tasked with at that particular station.

Along with my lessons, I like to use DOK level questions: Click here for a free download! These provide students with differentiated questions that can go with any lesson and grade level.

If you have class sizes that have more groups here is an example of a teacher who has five stations that work with a larger class size. I love how she added “Review Skills” into her stations.

One of the reasons I love these rotations is that they are all student-centered. You can adapt them to any subject or grade level. They can be easily changed to fit your teaching style and what your students’ need. That is the beauty of student-centered math.

For fun, I use Bitmojis quite a bit in my classroom to add some flair to station names too.

There are so many ways to make student-centered math work in your classroom. It just takes planning and preparation, but it is well worth it in the end.

Interested in hearing more from Kelcee? Check out some of her links below:


Student-Centered Math Stations (1)

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